As Spring Hill College Tennis Head Coach Michael Kreider approaches his second season at the helm of the Badger program he feels confident that his men's and women's teams are prepared to face the rigors of their second season in the highly competitive Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC). "Starting this year we are significantly improved over where we were at this time last year," Kreider says. "We play in a tough region of the country for tennis and our conference is one of the best in the nation, but we are ready for the challenge."
For the Badgers' women's team, junior Shelby Fritscher of Covington, La., will move up to the No. 1 court. "Fritscher is playing fantastic right now," says Kreider. "We expect big things from her this year."
Other returning Spring Hill players include senior McCall Hedrick of Louisville, Ky., junior Tara Montegut of League City, Texas, and senior Ruth Bourque of Houma, La. "Hedrick is playing much better than her previous seasons and Montegut has improved tremendously during the off season," says Kreider. "Bourque is one of our best doubles players and improves every day. Our ladies have really worked hard the past few months and it is showing on the court."
Sophomore Maggie Leeds from Birmingham, Ala., is a proven contributor and junior Caroline Hitt of Baton Rouge, La., looks to return to action following an injury in 2011. Freshman Elise Michaelis from Covington, La., has already earned a spot on the No. 2 doubles and No. 4 singles courts. "Michaelis has stepped up and filled a hole in the line up for us that we're glad to have covered," says Kreider.
Sophomore walk-on Monica Castello from Mobile's UMS-Wright High School has been a surprise. "Castello has been a great addition to the team," says Kreider. "She's been a hard worker and is very athletic." Freshman Megan Gietl of Montgomery, Ala., rounds out the roster with Kreider saying, "Gietl is a fine young player who will see some playing time this year and it's always nice to have quality depth over a long season."
On the men's courts, Kreider admits that his squad is still learning and growing. "We lost our two top players from last year, so we might take some lumps this year," he says. "But we're also going to surprise a few people with how good we can play."
Kreider's optimistic attitude is justified as five veteran junior players return to the men's team in Burke DeFraites of Lakeside Park, Ky., Joshua Schultz of Niceville, Fla., Wil Amanor of Mobile's Murphy High School, Jake Lyons of Jacksonville, Ala., and Jonathan Ames from St. Paul's Episcopal High School in Mobile. "We don't have any seniors with the men this year, but all of our juniors have played a lot of tennis for us over the past two years and their experience is a big plus," says Kreider.
Sophomore Jacob Neu of Lafayette, La., also returns to the squad and is joined by two talented freshmen in Meyer Schwartzberg of Lake Charles, La., Hayden Cotton of Edgewood, Ky., along with sophomore newcomer Samuel Chafee of Houston, Texas. "Cotton has probably earned our No. 2 spot behind DeFraites at No. 1 while Schwartzberg is looking at our No. 4 position," says Kreider. "Having two young players step into such crucial spots is unusual in college tennis, but I'm confident both players will exceed our expectations."
"I'm very proud of how hard our teams have work so far this year and we're excited to get the season underway," Kreider says. "My graduate assistant Chris Link and I have been running three practices a day to work around class schedules for everyone and the players have been very enthusiastic. It's fun to be around their energy and passion."
Spring Hill's matches versus Emmanuel College at the University of Mobile's Tennis Center on Saturday have been postponed due to inclement weather. The Badgers will next play at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa on Friday, March 2, at 11 a.m.