NATCHITOCHES – After a successful fall season, the Northwestern State tennis team is prepared to open its spring season this weekend with UT Tyler on Saturday and TCU on Sunday.
NSU starts the season at 2 p.m. on Saturday and finishes 10 a.m. Sunday, both on TCU’s campus. NSU was originally scheduled to open with UT Arlington before COVID-19 protocols within the Mavericks program changed the schedule.
The Lady Demons welcomed a nationally-ranked recruiting class of three members to mix with a respected group of five veterans.
NSU coach Jonas Brobeck’s first full recruiting class garnered a No. 9 ranking among mid-major programs by the website TennisRecruiting.net.
Freshmen Rozalie Dohnalova, Ayu Ishibashi and Tjasa Klevisar made their mark in fall competition as they adjusted to the collegiate game.
“Having a fall season after not getting one before last year was huge, and we played a great fall schedule with lots of quality opponents,” said Brobeck, who begins his second year at the helm. “The fall helped the newcomers a lot, and the high level of play helped get them acclimated.
“We knew what level they were coming in with national and international play, but they did a phenomenal job to step right in and compete. That fall season will be a stepping stone to what should be a successful spring.”
Dohnalova advanced the furthest in the ITA Southern Regionals in singles play, getting into the main draw round of 32 and taking a set off No. 8 seed Ariana Arseneault (Auburn) in a loss.
She also teamed up with Viktorie Wojcikova in doubles to push to the round of 16.
Klevisar won her first six singles matches of the fall.
This touted trio joins a returner group that includes NSU’s top three singles slot players in No. 1 Mariella Minetti, No. 2 Viktorie Wojcikova and No. 3 Dorota Szczygielska.
The Lady Demons will have holes to fill as Judit Castillo Gargallo and Emilija Dancetovic were key players at the back end of the singles rotation for multiple years, earning at least one all-conference selection in their careers.
But NSU will be rebuild from a season in which the Lady Demons finished 7-9 and 5-5 in league play, the first overall losing record since 2006.
“We have a chance to be a great team, and the players know that,” Brobeck said. “If we can focus on us and take care of us, day in and day out, we can give a lot of teams trouble.
“We have high goals which include winning the conference, but we just have to focus on things that we can control and do that daily work at a high level.”
Brobeck also learned important lessons in his first season as a head coach, lessons that will help him manage the college game still under the caution of COVID-19.
“As a young coach, you learn all the time, but I believe every good coach no matter how long they’ve been doing it is constantly learning,” Brobeck said. “Last year was tough for everyone, but we learned a lot about ourselves.
“I’m proud of these girls because they never quit, and it set the tone for the newcomers. This is a close team who already has great chemistry.”
The tough fall competition sets the stage for a competitive opening weekend against UT Tyler and TCU.
“UT Tyler is a very quality Division II opponent, and TCU is a Power Five member,” Brobeck said. “We start off with three really good teams when you throw Tulane in there (Jan. 29), but if we go out and compete well, we can do some damage against these teams.
“We like quality matches right off the bat to show where we are.”