Five simple words, a philosophy that Northern Illinois women’s tennis head coach Ryun Ferrell is using this season to ensure that his players perform their best when it counts, and it begins to count Saturday, Jan. 29, as the Huskies open up the 2011 season in Milwaukee, Wis., against UW-Milwaukee.
Now in his fifth year at the helm of the Huskie program, Ferrell has a team that consists of only his recruits, ones which he has been able to mold to fit his program. Making each day a great day means practicing great, thus allowing greatness to be achieved more easily due to repetition. It’s a philosophy being implemented for a team that Ferrell is unsure what to expect of.
“I have kids that will be playing in spots they’ve never played in before,” Ferrell said. “I have kids playing higher than they’ve ever played before. We have new doubles teams. It’s a whole new look to what we have now. Even with the kids that we have playing, it will probably be the most talented team that I’ve ever had.
“We’re tough, talented and we work hard, but I just don’t know what to expect. We just have to play and see what happens.”
Returning are seniors Martina Schnapp and Kathryn Friedlund, who is currently unavailable due to injury; juniors Sara McLaughlin and Emily Rogers; along with sophomore Kelly Phillips. Joining the quintet is the freshmen trio of Haley Dekkinga, Rebecca Hansmann and Ilse Pacheco.
“Emily Rogers is starting to come into her own as a leader. Sara McLaughlin is probably the most consistent competitor on the team,” Ferrell said. “Kelly Phillips is growing up day-by-day on the court. Martina Schnapp is finally healthy and was working very hard this summer, and Haley Dekkinga had a great fall beating up on some Big 10 and Big 12 competition. I want to see something from everybody this season, because they’ve all been stepping it up lately in a very nice fashion and I want to see them go and do something good.”
As for the Mid-American Conference race, Ferrell looks for it to be a challenge in the competitive league, but sees the possibility of his team performing well.
“Our conference is so tough,” Ferrell said. “There’s nothing given to you. You could have the best team you’ve ever had and still struggle.
“Western Michigan is the class of the conference, but there has been a lot coaching turnover in the conference so it’s hard to tell what will happen in the future — I have no idea what’s going to happen this year. It’s exciting, but it’s also really frustrating because there’s no predictability.”
With talent and depth throughout the lineup, the Huskies program is poised to take another step forward this season under Ferrell. The team will travel Sunday, Jan. 30, to Madison to face UW-Madison.
For more information on NIU women’s tennis and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.