WINONA LAKE – Grace’s women’s tennis team is dreaming big for the 2019 campaign.
The Lady Lancers achieved groundbreaking success last year under head coach Marcus Moore, and Grace returns much of its core.
Grace won a program-record 14 matches in 2018 and reached the semifinals of the Crossroads League Tournament.
Moore acknowledged that Grace plays in a very tough tennis conference, but the team’s goal is to get into the top three.
“While we want to finish at the top of the league, our goal remains the same,” Moore said. “We want each player to be significantly better in October than when they arrived. If we do that, winning will take care of itself.”
The team will be senior-led as the three-person class of Emily Mast, Carrie Copeland and Shelby Bankson provide experience and leadership.
Mast was an NCCAA First Team All-American last year, the first recorded women’s tennis player at Grace to be named an All-American. The All-League senior posted a combined record of 23-6 at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.
In doubles, Mast went 12-2 to mark the second-most doubles’ wins in program history.
Copeland won 22 matches as a junior and already has 62 wins over her career, and Bankson had an overall record of 13-3 last year.
The Lady Lancers will need to adjust to new NAIA rules this fall as well. The rule changes are primarily aimed at increasing the speed of play, which in turn places more importance for players to rebound mentally from point to point.
“There are some new rules in NAIA tennis, so our girls will need to adapt. We place a continual effort to focus on what is controllable. That will be important in our overall growth this year,” Moore said. “We also take pride in being in great physical shape, so they need to make sure they push it during preseason to prepare for a grueling regular season.”
Grace returns a pair of sophomores who impressed during their first seasons. Jayna Armstrong and Morgan Mast dominated in singles; Morgan went 15-2, and Armstrong finished 13-3.
They will be joined by a trio of newcomers who have the potential to make an impact, according to Moore.
Dayana Ortega is a junior transfer; the Venezuelan native played two years at Iowa Central Community College and is an instant impact player.
Gretchen Adams graduated from NorthWood High School, winning back-to-back sectional titles. Rachel Bognar is an accomplished player from the Indianapolis area.
“All of our newcomers are expected to contribute this year, and all three will have a big impact on our team and on the school,” Moore said. “I’m excited for this group. We have a great mix of skilled, veteran leadership as well as talent in our underclassmen.”
The Lady Lancers begin their season with a warmup at the Marian Doubles’ Tournament. Grace’s first match is at Bethel on Aug. 27. The team’s first home match is Sept. 4 against Huntington.