It is a brisk, January afternoon. The Queens women’s tennis team is preparing to hit the courts and begin practicing, improving themselves for the start of the season.
As the team looks to defend their 2018 South Atlantic Conference Championship, they welcome 11 freshmen. This means that out of the 17 total players, only seven are returning from last year. Players came from across the world, including Macedonia, Belarus and South Africa. However, despite the young group, head coach Billy Boykin is excited for the energy and the development that will evolve.
“My expectations for the team are that we can become a close-knit team, and I think that we are well on our way to doing that,” said Boykin. “We added a fusion of youth and energy, which is great, and a lot of really neat people, and we have a lot of different personalities.”
The team will strive to improve their play and increase the strength of the team community. “[We] are working throughout the year to become the best team that [we] can become,” said Boykin. They also value hard work outside the classroom, aligning with one of the slogans for Queens: ‘be both, be more.’
“I think my number one goal and hope for the team by years end is that our performance on the court, athletically and our production in the class, academically can mirror our cohesiveness as a group or team,” said Boykin.
The program has strong leaders, showing the way for younger players to follow. Among them are seniors Ana Bolson and Hannah Lehfeldt, and junior Isabel Fornies. “They have exemplary conduct, they are just malleable people socially, they are kind, work hard, they do great work in the classroom,” said Boykin, “so I think to for us to have them as the leaders of our team by virtue of their experience and production. You couldn’t ask for better young ladies to lead your team.” The upperclassmen help keep the team close. “Overall, everyone is pretty hyped to be here, we are excited to be here and so there is a good atmosphere and we all look out for each other on and off the court, there is a good team camaraderie,” said Caity Klaassen (’22).
The bond between the players is important as they will play many nationally ranked teams this season, including conference rival Wingate University, and some division one teams, like Davidson University. However, the team is excited to learn from each match. “There will be a lot of learning along the way and we will see a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but the key is that we learn from some of our mistakes so we do not keep doing them repeatedly,” said Boykin. “I think at the end of the day sports and completion you try to learn from your mistakes so you can learn the next time out, you don’t make the same mistake too many times.”
As the girls grip their racquets before the first match of the season on Saturday, January 26 against Davidson, they know their team chemistry will help them through each game.