The women's tenis team practices on the court. Photo by Lexie Boren.

Women’s Tennis Enters New Season with Hope after Changes

Women’s tennis is arguably one of Lewis & Clark’s most successful teams, being the most recent one to win a Northwest Conference Championship. This year, nearly half of the players are first-years and sophomores, which brings with it some challenges and growing pains. Yet the women’s tennis team is facing its current season with a combination of optimism and grit. Having already played numerous matches against teams above their division level and out of conference, the team is focusing on improving their game this season and for the ones to come.

Carla Thomas ’19 is the team captain and has been playing tennis since she was old enough to hold a racket. As the only senior, she has been on the team the longest and witnessed many changes but is optimistic for the their future.

“I see this season going very well,” Thomas said. “We have been working very hard on improving every week during practice. We have amazing coaches and they have already helped us improve so much.”

Emily Schmelling ’20, who joined at the request of head coach Jimmy Chau, described the individual nature of the sport.

“I feel like since we have a relatively young team the more we play, we’ll all individually improve and that’s the goal,” Schmelling said. “In tennis in general, you have to want to improve on the little things.”

The team also has experienced changes to the coaching staff this year. Chau has been an assistant coach for the team for 14 years and was recently promoted to head coach after the departure of Patrick Dreves to the U.S. Tennis Association. He explained the logic of facing challenging opponents in their preseason.

“I scheduled a really tough schedule to begin with, with nationally-ranked teams, Division I teams, so everyone who on paper is stronger than us,” Chau said. “We’ve taken some lumps and bruises, and all those good things, but I think that’s motivated (the team) more than anything and that was kind of the hope.”

While Chau said it is necessary for the team to focus on improvement, he believes in the group’s potential.

“We’re young, we’re figuring things out,” Chau said. “We gotta get that experience of playing together, being a team, working hard towards a goal. Getting the right type of women who want to compete at a strong Division III academic and athletic school, so people who are passionate about tennis are number one. A lot of times it has nothing to do with tennis, it has more to do with them as human beings first.”

The team’s schedule has been affected by the weather and they have faced some initial losses this season. Despite these setbacks, they are determined to make the most of the season and will be playing away against Pacific University Feb. 24.

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