Jan. 10, 2008
Princeton, NJ - Saint Mary's women's tennis earned a No. 57 preseason ranking from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) on January 8. The ranking marks the first time that the women's tennis program has ever been ranked before the start of the season. Last season the Gaels finished with a No. 54 ITA ranking, which was the first time Saint Mary's had been ranked at the end of the season.
"It was a tremendous step for us to the end the season with a national ranking for the first time in program history. The first time you do something is really the most important time you did it because that sets the standard for the future. The challenge for us this year will be to improve on what we did last year," said Head Coach Lisa Alipaz.
This past fall the Gaels competed in a variety of tournaments, including their own Saint Mary's Invitational, as well as at Cal, Stanford, and San Diego State. The high level of competition proved to be a good test for the Gaels, as many came out at the top of the pack. Saint Mary's women's tennis players Jessica Hoath, Stef Ordoveza, and Alexandra Poorta were each recognized as a Top-30 player in the Northwest Region. Senior Jessica Hoath earned the highest ranking in Saint Mary's tennis history, placing 13th on the Top-30 list. Ordoveza earned the 22nd spot on the list, while freshman Alexandra Poorta finished 28th.
"We had our most successful fall ever with three players earning regional singles rankings, in arguably one of the toughest regions in the country," said Alipaz. Jessica (Hoath) had some stellar wins, beating #13 Bojana Bobusic (Cal), #39 Lindsay Burdette (Stanford), and #69 Lauren Lui (Northwestern)."
Three newcomers will join the Gaels this season, including new assistant coach Greg Kennet. Kennet comes to Saint Mary's from Illinois State, where he coached the men's program for seven years. During his time at Illinois State, Kennett accumulated multiple coaching accolades, including: four Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) individual champions, three MVC doubles champions, five MVC Scholar-Athletes and 12 MVC all-conference selections.
"Greg will be a huge asset to our program, without a doubt," said Alipaz. "We are extremely fortunate to have a coach of his caliber and experience helping us out. Greg brings a ton of enthusiasm and expertise to the program. His positive and relaxed coaching style fits in perfectly."
In addition to coach Kennet, two freshmen join the Gael's roster this season in Alex Poorta and Claire Soper. Poorta entered Saint Mary's as a freshman this fall from Amsterdam, Holland. Poorta participated in fall competition for the Gaels, with her most impressive play coming in the San Diego State tournament, where she went undefeated in the Flight 2 Singles (4-0).
Alipaz commeneted on Poorta's athleticism stating, "Alex has tremendous speed and the ability to do many things with the ball. I expect her to challenge for one of the top singles positions, and am confident she will make a big impact this year."
Soper joined the Gaels at the semester from Arizona. Soper spent a year playing in ITF events throughout Europe and the United States following her high school career, where she produced some terrific results.
"Claire is a fierce competitor that will drive opponents crazy with her crafty play. She uses spins and angles as good as anyone," said Alipaz. "Like Alex, she has great potential to be a top player in the WCC, and be competitive on the national level."
This season the Gael's roster includes five seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, and two freshmen. Leading the way in experience is senior Jessica Hoath. Hoath was named WCC First Team in both singles and doubles in 2007, and is coming off a very strong fallseason.
After such a successful 2007 season Alipaz and the Gaels look to accomplish even more this season. Alipaz has put together an extremely challenging schedule for Saint Mary's, as they face 11 teams ranked in the Top-75 by the ITA. Out of the 11 ranked opponents nine teams are placed above the Gaels, including #2 Stanford, #6 California, #14 Fresno State, and #18 Pepperdine.
When commenting on Saint Mary's schedule Alipaz stated, "As with any athlete, our biggest obstacle will be belief. We need to believe in ourselves that we can beat any team, no matter what their ranking or history. We were extremely competitive with many top teams last year, and came up just short in a few key matches. I think what will turn those loses into wins is the belief in ourselves and the expectation to win, not just compete closely."
The Gaels will begin their 2008 campaign next weekend, as they travel to Berkeley, CA for the Cal Winter Invitational on January 19-20. Competition will take place all day, visit www.SMCGaels.com for updated results.