2011 Tennis Season Preview
Second-year head coach Yolanda Duron feels that the 2011 edition of the University of La Verne tennis team is poised to show significant improvement with the addition of eight new players to the roster. The Leopards finished sixth in the SCIAC standings a year ago and are, according to Duron, are in strong position to be even more competitive in one of the nation's top tennis conferences.
Despite the team's youth, Duron believes that the expectations will be high throughout the 2011 campaign. "We are definitely a young squad, and our team is learning on a daily basis how to be successful at the collegiate level," Duron said. "Everyone is expected to step up their level of play, and they have responded well during the early practices."
The added depth has led to more competitive atmosphere which Duron hopes to translate into more wins. "Without a doubt we're much deeper than we were last season," she said. "The players are really pushing each other in practices and that has made for a great environment."
Among the newcomers, the freshman duo of Lila Luna and Tarika Krishnamurthy should make an immediate impact. Both players possess a vast amount of competitive experience at the USTA level and have shown a strong work ethic during the preseason. Another freshman expected to contribute is Valerie Lezin, who will serve as one of the Leopard captains for this season. In addition, the Leopards welcome a pair of transfers in Arielle Monteilh and Amanda Mullis, both of whom arrive to La Verne from Mt. San Antonio College.
Sophomores Lauren Meeks and Jessenia Garcia are two returnees who were instrumental in the Leopards' success a year ago and are in position to excel in their second year in the Leopard program. Meeks will serve as a co-captain this season. Duron also has high expectations for fellow freshmen Justine Ledesma, Allison Moncrief and Carly Tucker.
The challenging Leopard schedule features three NAIA opponents to open the season in Biola (February 4), Hope International (February 11) and The Master's College (Feb. 12). In other non-conference action, La Verne travels to northern California in early March to face Mills (March 5) and UC Santa Cruz (March 6) before returning home to face the likes of Vassar, Sewanee and Trinity. "We have a tough schedule but it will definitely prepare us for the rigors of conference play," said Duron. "We won't be afraid to play anyone."
In the SCIAC, La Verne will test itself among some of the nation's best squads, including Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands. The Leos also face formidable squads in Occidental, Whittier and Cal Lutheran.
"We have the capacity to surprise some of the top-tier teams in the country, but it will be a day-to-day process of putting our team in position to more competitive," said Duron. "Although we have long term goals, we'll focus on getting better each day. We're very excited about the upcoming season."