Warrior women open season on Friday
Youth will be “served” this season when the Lewis-Clark State College men’s and women’s tennis teams take the court in an attempt to continue their streaks of qualifying for the NAIA national tournaments.
The two teams have only three seniors on the roster, including just one on the women’s team, which kicks off its season Friday in a pair of road matches against NCAA Division I teams Washington State University and Eastern Washington University. The WSU match starts at 9 a.m. in Pullman, while the EWU match is scheduled at 4 p.m. in Cheney.
The men’s squad, which has two seniors, opens action on Feb. 23 at home against Whitworth at noon. All of LCSC’s home matches are scheduled for the LCSC Tennis Center.
The LCSC women posted a 12-12 record a year ago and was ranked No. 20 in the final NAIA poll. The Warriors made it to the second round of the national tournament before falling to eventual champion Auburn-Montgomery. It was LCSC’s 13th straight appearance at the national tournament at 16th overall.
The Warrior men were ranked No. 20 as well last year and finished the season at 9-12 overall. The Warrior men made their 10th straight appearance at the national tournament and 19th overall, but fell in the first round of the tournament.
The preseason rankings for this season won’t come out until Feb. 2.
Both teams lost a number of seniors from last year and are fairly young. On the men’s side, 11 of the 14 players listed on the roster are either sophomores or freshmen, while 9 of the 13 players on the women’s team are sophomores or freshmen.
LCSC coach Kai Fong, who is entering his 20th season at the Warrior helm, has put together another challenging schedule, filled with several NCAA schools and tough road trips to California and Oklahoma to play some of the top-ranked NAIA programs.
The Warrior women’s team returns four players who played at the national tournament a year ago. Megan Smedley is the lone senior on the team and played at No. 2 doubles and No. 4 singles at nationals last season. She’s joined by juniors Chelsea Gay and Elaine Lee. Gay, who like Lee and Smedley is in her third year of the program, played at No. 3 doubles, while Lee was at No. 5 singles. Sophomore Katarina Marsela also returns and played at No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles. She is expected to be one of the top players in the program again this season.
Sophomores Barb Sneckner and Marina Wold also return for the Warriors.
The freshmen class includes Daiana Bazzano, Dorothy Chong, Erica Norris, Loreto Ramos, Samantha Teigen and Chynna Woodruff. Also, junior Ciara Schultz joins the team after spending two seasons at Bellevue Community College.
On the men’s side, the Warriors return three of the seven players who made the trip to nationals last season. Three were seniors while Kevin Lee, the older brother of women’s player Elaine Lee, transferred to Idaho to continue his pursuit of an Engineering degree.
The top returner is sophomore Zhia Hwa Chong, who played at No. 4 singles and at No. 2 doubles last season. He’s joined by junior Oliver Stone Sindayigaya, who played No. 5 singles and No. 3 doubles. Also Arlsan Mermut, who joins Tobias Campbell as the only seniors on the team, played at No. 6 singles last year.
Along with two seniors, LCSC has only one junior active on the men’s team in Sindayigaya. Reed Nibley, who is out this season with a wrist injury, will redshirt and remain a junior. The sophomore class is strong with Tyler Oram, Cesar Uauy, Richard Muszynski III, and Benjamin Robert.
The new freshmen include Victor Garcia Barcina, Max Eurisch, Lincoln Gay (younger brother of Chelsea), Ivan Krijanto, Jeff Lowdnes, and Chris Shallman.
As with last year, the Warriors have been assigned to an unaffiliated group for postseason qualification because the Frontier Conference does not sponsor tennis as a sport. The top-ranked team in the final Top 25 poll among the group will earn an automatic berth to the national tournament in May.