IU Kokomo’s women’s tennis team began its fall season late last month with seven new freshmen tennis players, in addition to eight returners, and earned recent success on the court.
The doubles team consisting of junior Kelsey Kohlmorgen from Fairmount, Ind., and freshman Gabbie Orlando from Lansing, Mich., won a doubles flight for the first time in school history in the River States Conference (RSC) Fall Individual Tournament at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.
On the same day as the accomplishment of the doubles team in Kentucky, the Lady Cougars won the five singles flight. Sophie Davidson, who played for Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., won that match. Her unique style of play helped her battle a more traditional player and secure the win. There were nine flights in all, and IU Kokomo placed runner-up in three other divisions.
“This gives me the indication that we could be competitive this year with some of the better teams in the conference. We will see what the year brings,” Head Coach Kristine Miller said. “We are struggling with some injuries right now, and the results will depend on us staying healthy.
“It's hard to wrap these two days of competition (RSC Tournament). Something I want to take away is for us to remember is that the wins didn't get handed to us. Every day we play, we have to come as hungry and prepared as we did this weekend (Aug. 30 through Aug. 31). I am very pleased with all of my ladies.”
For the team’s first competition of the short fall season, the Lady Cougars competed in the Marian University doubles tournament. Duo Davidson and Morgan White finished second in their division. Additionally, two of the doubles teams placed third, consisting of Mayzie Hinkle and Mary Sayre, as well as Orlando and Casey Clark.
Suffering a 4-5 loss against Anderson University last week, this reminded Miller how inexperienced the majority of her team is at the college level.
“There are times where I forget how young we really are as a team,” Miller said. “Last night (Sept. 4) showed me that we still have work to do in pressure situations, but I believe we will come out stronger, having learned from that loss.”
Competing in both spring (January through April) and fall (August through September) seasons, the Lady Cougars aren’t spending much time away from the courts. In the summer, the team is expected to play in tournaments, practice serving, core work, and conditioning. Additionally, in the winter, the women participate in conditioning and strength training in the Cole Fitness Center on campus, as well as practice at the Howard County Indoor Tennis Center.
During preseason, the Lady Cougars have an hour morning conditioning practice including a timed mile, jump rope, core work, and serve practice. In the afternoon, the focus is on singles and doubles match play and drills.
Not only does Miller strive to keep her players physically fit to compete at a serious level, but she also instills in them the importance of a “team-first focus” bond, and assists in the development of them as young ladies.
“My goal as a coach is to help each athlete become the best tennis player, teammate, student, and to help them grow as a person. I strive to challenge them to get out of their comfort zone by having high expectations for them while understanding that they are young adults and have a lot they are still learning,” Miller said.
The Lady Cougars will travel to Huntington University tomorrow, Sept. 12, to compete against the Foresters at 4:30 p.m.