The Northern Illinois women’s tennis team gets back into the swing of things this weekend at the Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.
After a grueling two weeks of practice NIU finally gets to see competition out side of each other as the Huskies look to build on an 11-12, 2-6 (Mid-American Conference), record in 2011-12 that saw head coach Ryun Ferrell’s group grab the seventh seed in the MAC Tournament for the first time in his tenure. Prior to that, the Huskies had been the eight or nine seed each year.
“In our practice it’s almost personal, our girls go after each other pretty hard,” said the sixth-year coach. “I’ve worked them harder in these two weeks than I’ve ever done in any preseason.”
With losing only two seniors from last season, the Huskies look to build around their youth.
Returning to the court this fall for the Huskies will be two juniors, Haley Dekkinga (Allegan, Mich./Allegan) and Ilse Pacheco, (San Luis Potosí, Mexico/Alma Patria) along with four sophomores: Arantza De La Torre (San Luis Potosi, Mexico/Motolinia), Mary Malkin (Tel Aviv, Israel/Alliance), Stephanie McDonald (Harare, Zimbabwe/St. Anne’s Diocesan College), and Nelle Youel (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake Central).
Youel’s 38 overall victories in her rookie season ranked her just one shy of cracking the all-time Huskie top 10 list for combined season victories. Add in Dekkinga’s 36 combined wins last season, and Ferrell had his first set of players with 30 or more wins in a season.
“I think we are a littler deeper than what we were last year,” Ferrell said. “We are going to miss Sara McLaughlin and Emily Rogers because they were good kids and good players, but there is something to say about our youth.”
Coach Farrell has high hopes for Youel, who moved to the No. 1 spot late last season as a freshman.
“In practice she’s definitely been our best player,” Ferrell said. “It’s kind of made her a marked target. She wants to play at a high level which is exciting.”
Also making their Huskie debuts are three freshman, Sarah Boyd (Aurora, Ill./Alpha Omega Academy), Maria Rozo (Bogota, Columbia/Gimnasio Femenino), and Cristina Alvarez (Zaragoza, Spain/Cristorey and Sagrado Corazon De Jesus).
Despite having no seniors, Ferrell isn’t worried about the lack of senior leadership at all. He has high hopes for the girls.
“I just have ran them into the ground,” Ferrell said. “They don’t complain, they don’t say a word – they just work. The girls we have are just tough and we’re working to get them up to the level we want. Once we get there we’ll be pretty tough.”
For more information on NIU women’s tennis and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.