The 2011 season promises a fresh beginning for the Spring Hill College men's and women's tennis teams as new head coach Michael Kreider takes over the reins of the program following the retirement of Hans Laub.
Kreider assumes command of two programs poised to take the next step in their development and he also is faced with moving into one of the top tennis conferences in the NAIA as the Badgers shift to the West Division of the newly expanded Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC).
For Kreider's women's team, 2010 was a breakthrough year as the ladies ended the season rated number 24 in the final NAIA poll. This year the team looks to improve on both the regional and national scene and the move to the SSAC should help accomplish both those goals. "I don't stress the rankings with our players," says Kreider. "I welcome the challenge, but I've told our teams that I am more focused on us showing improvement and getting better every day and every match."
So far, Kreider likes what he has seen in the off season. He says, "We've been working to get to know each other, but I've got a really great group of seniors who have shown a lot of leadership and taken on a lot of responsibility for the team already. Lynn Fritscher (Covington, La.) and Chris Link (Louisville, Ky.) have been especially helpful during the transition."
For the women, Kreider foresees his doubles team of sophomore Tara Montegut (League City, Texas) and junior McCall Hedrick (Louisville, Ky.) stepping into the No. 1 position while the sister tandem of Lynne and sophomore Shelby Fritscher should settle in at No. 2. Kreider's No. 3 team will be open for adjustments depending upon the opponents and situation. "Senior Gina Pambianchi (Cleveland, Miss.), junior Ruth Bourque (Houma, La.), sophomore Caroline Hitt (Baton Rouge, La.) and freshmen Maggie Leeds (Birmingham, Ala.) and Karen Brunson (McGill-Toolen Catholic High) will each see time at the No. 3 doubles as we develop and work on our chemistry," Kreider says.
The ladies singles are even less clear cut for Kreider. "There's no clear cut No. 1 player on our team," he says. "And that's actually a good thing since No.1 through 7 are fairly even across the board and they are really battling at practice to win positions. We will have good depth this year."
The Badger men are almost as balanced as the women except that sophomore Colin Perry (UMS Wright Prep) has a solid hold on the No. 1 singles court. "Perry is our No. 1 going into the year, but No. 2 through 9 are almost interchangeable," says Kreider. "Seniors Link and Mike Logan (Louisville, Ky.) will be very strong us while sophomores Burke DeFraites (Lakeside Park, N.Y.) and Joshua Schultz (Niceville, Fla.) will also be solid contributors this year."
Kreider additionally points to his younger Badgers in sophomore Jake Lyons (Jacksonville, Fla.) and freshman Jacob Neu (Lafayette, La.) both of whom he says could immediately step into starting roles. Senior Johnny Ngamvilay (St. Elmo, Ala.) is an experienced veteran who has played a variety of roles throughout his four years on the Hill and has never backed down from a challenge. Sophomores Wil Amanor (Murphy High) and Jonathan Ames (St. Paul's Episcopal) should all see valuable time in both singles and doubles play this season.
"I'm excited for our future," says Kreider. "We need to find our team chemistry, but the players have been working hard every chance they get. Both teams have strong senior leadership and a solid foundation of sophomores that give us an opportunity to build as we add pieces."
Spring Hill opens the 2011 season on Saturday at the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center with men's and women's match versus Birmingham-Southern College at 9 a.m. and Huntingdon College at 1 p.m.