After competing against a handful of schools with various skills in the fall, the Bethany men’s and women’s tennis teams were ready to come into the spring with determination to get to the top. Although faced with the challenge of a small team size, within those small numbers they knew they had a variety of skills and variety of classes as well.
“The women’s side is the much more diverse side – there is a pretty good crop of upperclassmen and underclassmen. [The upperclassmen] have been very good with working with the younger players and making them feel part of the program and showing them how to manage their time. The men’s team is actually all younger. We only returned one player from last year, so they are all pretty fresh,” said coach Krueger.
Even with the wide variety of ages and experience, like the other Bethany teams, the tennis teams have built up great chemistry throughout the fall and spring seasons.
“I love the team chemistry. We all have so much fun together and even though there is a wide age range, we are all really close friends. Tennis is unique in the fact that the women’s and men’s teams practice and travel together so that just builds great chemistry and lifelong friends,” said senior Rebecca Kopacek.
While most of the team’s chemistry is developed from just being together, it also comes from learning from one another. With most of the team playing tennis at the college level for the first time, the two seasons have been a big adjustment, but having a mix of experience has especially helped the underclassmen get accustomed to the competition.
“Playing with the upperclassmen has helped me see what it takes to be able to compete at this level. It was nice to see how comfortable one could be in this conference after just one season. The upperclassmen kept pushing us underclassmen to go for it all, even if loss was imminent. They taught us the lesson to never give up,” said freshman Paul Riediger.
Although both seasons have been a learning experience for the most of the players and coaches, they have put the knowledge they learned to use. The women’s team currently stands third in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) with a conference record of 4-5, putting them right behind their big rivals, St. Scholastica and Northwestern, as they come up on the last meets of the season.
“We have a very talented girls team with great chemistry and I think that is the main reason why we are doing well. We work hard and hold our heads high even when we play tough teams,” said Kopacek.
“[Kopacek] is our top player of the women’s team. She’s a very consistent player. She does a very good job of trying to make her opponent win – she doesn’t make a lot of mistakes herself. The Player of the Week was a great thing for her, and Bethany tennis in general,” said coach Krueger.
“It was truly an honor to get UMAC Player of the Week. I feel very blessed and it feels good to be recognized for the hard work I have put in not only here these four years at Bethany, but the years before. All in all, I am playing for the glory of God and thankful that he has blessed me in so many ways,” said Kopacek.
And while the women will most likely be playing in the playoffs, the men will fall short after struggling in their spring season.
“We have very few players that played high school tennis. We have athletes that we are turning into tennis players. They are coming along and they are getting better each week. Next year, we should be noticeably better as we continue to develop our team,” said coach Krueger.
With only a couple meets left in the regular season, the Vikings know that next season will be here before they know it – a season they hope to improve even more.
“Next season I believe we will be better than we were this season. All of the freshmen will be a little more experienced and comfortable at this level. We also have some recruits coming in and from what I have heard are pretty decent players. I am looking forward to next season and am excited to see how we do,” said Riediger.