SE: K-State Tennis Opens Home Slate

Last year, everything was new for the Wildcat women’s tennis team. Head coach Danielle Steinberg was in her first season coaching at K-State and, day-by-day, match-by-match, the team worked and grew together.

However this year is a bit different. The team, filled with fierce competitors and unique personalities, now has a year together under its belt and has started the 2016 season on a high note.

“It was a process. Last year we were all coming from different places; even Coach was new,” said sophomore Sara Castellano, who transferred to K-State from McNeese State in 2014. “It was a little tough last year bonding all together – everyone had to adjust – but now we have all known each other for a long time, our two new freshmen are very energetic, and we all have a lot of fun together. We’re all very close.”

Friends and teammates, this year’s Wildcat squad is closer than ever, and that off-the-court chemistry is showing in their performances on the court.

“Team chemistry is huge,” said Steinberg. “Even though we’re an individual sport, it still plays a huge role. So far this group really enjoys each other’s company and they’re good friends off the court. That’s really important.”

Coming off of back-to-back successful weekends to open the 2016 spring season, the Wildcats (2-1) will host their first home competition of the season this afternoon as the team is set to take on Colorado (2-2) at 2 p.m., in Body First Indoor Tennis Center in Manhattan (you can click here for a map to Body First Indoor Tennis Center). Admission to Friday’s match is free, but hurry, because the first 100 fans will receive a free Powercat mug with hot chocolate.

“It’s our first home match, and that can be a little scary for some of them who have never played at home, but we have a huge home court advantage whether we’re inside or outside,” said Steinberg. “And I’ll tell you, teams don’t like to come here. We really have to capitalize on that this weekend. We know our courts and we know what it’s like to play at Body First, so hopefully we get a good crowd and get loud out there. We’re very excited.”

This year’s roster features two new faces in Valencia, Spain, native Ana Garcia Navas and Edinburgh, Scotland native Millie Stretton. The pair are both 3-0 in dual match singles this season.

“I think new blood always gives a boost to the team, especially if they’re good people and good players, and they are,” said Steinberg about her two freshmen. “I think you see the older girls, like Iva (Bago) and Livia (Cirnu) performing at an even higher level than they have in the past because everyone wants to play, and all of a sudden, when there’s a little bit of competition, it pushes everyone to work harder.”

The freshmen lead this year’s team in dual match singles wins, while Stretton holds a team-high winning streak in singles sets with five consecutive victories.

Though it has been an adjustment and both newcomers have had to overcome challenges in their first year of playing collegiate tennis, Garcia Navas and Stretton are continuing to improve and have bright futures ahead of them at K-State.

“Before I came here, I was a clay court player and I hadn’t been to many matches on the hard court,” explained Garcia Navas. “My game was too defensive (focused), but now I’m playing more offensive. This season, I hope to continue improving my game, playing with more confidence and to keep training hard. I hope we have a good season.”

Along with the two freshmen, Castellano, sophomore Carolina Costamagna and junior Livia Cirnu also enter this weekend’s match coming off of single match wins in the Wildcats’ most recent victory over North Texas (6-1) and will be looked upon to help K-State to victory today.

“I’m very excited, and I’m very motivated this season because I basically haven’t played a full season here,” said Castellano, a native of Carmagnola, Italy. “My freshman year was at another college, and it was totally different, then I was injured last season, but now I’m back and it’s great. I’m very happy.”

Along with last weekend’s victory over North Texas, K-State swept has opened the spring season with a 7-0 win at Missouri State but fell at Washington State, 5-2.

While they’ve showed well on the road, the team knows there’s no place like home and is ready to capitalize on its home court.

“I’m really nervous, but I’m also so excited because it’s my first match here in Manhattan,” said Garcia Navas. “I’m just so excited, and I hope to do well in this first match at home.”

Added Castellano, “I’m very, very excited; it’s a Friday and it’s in the middle of the day, so it would be really cool if a lot of people can come out for it. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a challenging match, but I think that motivates us even more.

For more information on today’s Wildcat tennis matchup with Colorado, please click here.