Louisiana-Monroe women's tennis started the season in the middle of the pack. They finished 13-6-1 overall and 2-4 in Sun Belt play last season, but recently locked up a spot on top of the pack with their 2017 season still underway. The Warhawks are gearing up for their NCAA tournament appearance against Texas A&M in the first round mid-may following their first ever Sun Belt Conference title this season.
Head Coach Terrence De Jongh said, "the women were hungrier than ever this year and that they believed they can make it all happen this year with the extra work paying off."
Thus, the Warhawks set their sights on a national rank and the top seed in the conference — well, they certainly out-did themselves this year. According to ULM Athletics, the Warhawks received a top 50 ITA ranking following that win over the Green Wave, and individually, Petra Horakova spent time in the ITA singles rankings. They clearly have the top rank among Sun Belt teams for the time being.
Looking ahead, De Jongh said that their goal for the NCAA tournament is to win as many rounds as possible, but certainly the first two — they even wrote this goal on the wall of their locker room so they could visualize it each and every day. Seems like visualization was the key this year for the Warhawks.
Some injury and ineligibility issues took a toll last season according to De Jongh, but the potential was always there. So what's working this time around? It definitely doesn't hurt to have a full time assistant in R. J. Nagel and a volunteer assistant who has been assisting ULM towards achieving their dreams day in and day out.
"You can see the difference with the whole staff because the girls are working more, working individually and on specifics," De Jongh said. "The are excited because it's not just the routines with the full team anymore."
Freshman Madeline Grigoriu and Karolina Snita came in and worked hard to build their reputation among the team. Leading the pack from the top has been captain Stefana Andrei, who is the veteran of the group as a junior. Petra Horakova has been recognized for her tremendous performances as well, earning national rankings and All-American honors in previous years. According to her coach, she wanted this conference win more than anything and, "put the team on her shoulders," through cheering, encouragement and incredible energy.
Although the first task now has a check mark by it's name, it's time for the Warhawks to be able to check off the everlasting goal on the walls of their locker room, and all will be decided in just a few short weeks, starting off against Texas A&M.
"It's a team effort, and we have to keep working together and communicating and being a team so that we have a chance," De Jongh said.