Steinberg Glances Back at First Year With K-State
Recently concluding her first season at the helm of the K-State women's tennis program, Steinberg said the 2014-15 season threw a few obstacles the team's way, but she is happy with how far her young group has grown.
"Overall, it was a good year," said Steinberg. "It was definitely a challenging year in some aspects, but I personally learned a ton. I've grown and improved, and the girls have too. It's cliché to say you learn from adversity and grow from adversity, but it's true, when everything goes well and you're winning, that's easy, but I think we got better and this year will prepare us for next year."
Steinberg took over as K-State's head tennis coach in July 2014 after spending two seasons as the head coach at McNeese State where she was named 2014 Southland Conference Coach of the Year. Possessing the ability to relate with the student-athletes she coaches, the Tel Aviv, Israel, native played collegiate tennis for the Arizona Wildcats from 2006-09 and was a three-time All-Pac-10 pick as well as the 2009 Pac-10 Toyota Spring Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"I think the biggest difference is that there are so many people around here that are truly invested in the program," said Steinberg about her first year at K-State. "They don't just do this because it's their job, they actually care, so that's new to me. I've talked to other coaches, and they don't get that much support from their administration. Everyone is so involved with the girls, and since they don't know what it's like in other programs, I tell them every day they should appreciate that because it's so unique. That allows me to just do my job as a coach and not have to worry about other things. That's something I've been learning and adjusting to because it's new to me. It's a huge bonus."
Over the past 10 months, Steinberg has spent her time establishing a new culture for K-State women's tennis.
"I think the most important thing - and I'm sure any new coach would say this - is laying the foundation and laying out the expectations as far as work," explained Steinberg. "The girls know now what to expect and what's expected of them.
"We are building a really strong foundation and, overall, the girls improved a ton," she continued. "We're really happy about that, but what I'm really happy with is that they recognized their improvement and they know that if they work hard it will pay off."
K-State went 9-17 (1-8 Big 12) in 2014-15, and, overall, recorded a 101-101 singles record and a 38-55 doubles record. A roster filled with youth, K-State graduated just one senior from this year's roster - Amina St. Hill - and will return upcoming juniors Iva Bago, Sara Castellano, Livia Cirnu, Palma Juhasz, Riley Nizzi and Maria Panaite, as well as upcoming sophomore Carolina Costmagna.
"You can see our results weren't always what we wanted, but individually on the tennis court we all grew as well as off the court," said Juhasz. "Our team is really good together, we all support each other and this year it became much better. We all became more mature individually and we all just grew together."
Growing more as the season continued, the Cats topped Iowa State, 4-1, in the opening round of the Big 12 Championship before falling to Baylor in the semifinals.
"We upped the level of work in April," said Steinberg. "We pushed the girls a little more and things really came together. I think we played our best match of the year against Iowa State in the tournament. And that's good for me to see because I know that's where I want them to start off in August."
Added Juhasz about closing the season with a victory fresh on their minds, "The Iowa State win was one of our best wins of the season. We lost to them in the regular season, but we really wanted to show them that we are the better team. Even though we lost the doubles point, we came out strong in singles. It was really impressive how everybody came out strong, fought and gave everything they had. It was our biggest win and we showed the coaches and everyone else that we are a good team and there is a really good future for K-State tennis."
With the summer months upon us, the Wildcats will be training on their own until school and team training starts back up in August.
"We'll lose them for the summer, so that's always a challenge, but I think they're motivated enough to do the work on their own," said Steinberg. "We just want to get back in August on the same level that we're at now so we can continue to grow. But I think they'll be pumped coming back after the summer, and I'm excited to see where we can go from there."