Friday, March 13, also known as “The Day the Sports World Stopped”, Slippery Rock’s women’s tennis team had its last match for the foreseeable future. Since that fateful day, there have been no Slippery Rock athletic teams or Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) athletic teams to take the field or the court. And as COVID-19 crept its way into the fall, it became apparent that fall sports would be postponed or cancelled altogether.
Now while the world is in the midst of one of the oddest times in the past century, Rock women’s tennis team and coach Matt Meredith are looking towards the future. The team will surely feel the losses of Viola Lugmayr and Pia Bruckmayer, but some good news is Lacey Cohen may still return. The team will also add two transfers and one freshman.
“My incoming freshman is from England; she is the first one we signed last year in February before the virus made everything go crazy,” Meredith said. “She’s currently in England still doing her classes, and she is a very nice player to say the least.”
That incoming freshman is Regi Ristic-North, and she will be the second player on The Rock tennis team from England, joining sophomore standout Lois Page. The transfers coming in are also from Europe, as both come from Spain. Gabi del Val del Toro comes from Barcelona, Spain and transferred from Coker University, and Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez comes from Moralzarzal, Spain and transferred from Division I Saint Louis University.
“[del Val del Toro] played [as the] three [seed] and probably should’ve played higher on her school lineup,” Meredith said. “She has first year experience and is looking for a bigger school which we can offer her. I’m expecting her to make a big impact.”
Before her season was cancelled, del Val del Toro had a record of 7-2 in singles (6-2 in the third flight) and also played for Coker’s number one double team. Gonzalez Sanchez also put up impressive numbers, compiling a 10-7 record competing out of Saint Louis’ first flight for doubles and went 7-11 in singles competing out of the fourth and fifth flight. Gonzalez Sanchez was also named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week twice before the season was called off.
“Adriana has some D1 experience and she was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week multiple times last season, so we’re looking for her to come in and make a big impact also,” Meredith said. “All these women are good students too, so I’m very pleased at the direction we’re going in.”
The incoming freshman and transfers are still in their countries and have not been able to come to Slippery Rock yet, but Meredith makes sure to keep in touch with all the players.
“We have a weekly Zoom meeting with the team, and that’s the normal for now,” Meredith said. “We stay in touch using Zoom and WhatsApp and we make sure that everyone is staying on pace with school and their training. The only other normal is [that] things change and I’ve learned that, so we’ve learned to adapt, and we’ll do that until we can have everyone back.”
Along with those coming in, the team will return five players, and Coach Meredith expects big things from all of them. Of the five, three of them are juniors. Olivia Warner returns and has records of 32-30 in singles and 39-24 in doubles, Lauren Fadden returns with a 46-25 record in singles and 36-33 in doubles and Amy Varckette returns with a 27-9 record in singles and 24-18 record in doubles.
Page will also be back and is arguably the most decorated of any player returning. Page has 72 wins her career and was named an ITA All-American in the 2019-2020 season after winning the 2019-2020 ITA Atlantic Region doubles and PSAC doubles with Lugmayr. Finally, Lindsey Fadden will also return and look to continue developing after her first season was cut short, and at the time the season was cancelled, Fadden had won four straight singles matches.
“I can’t wait [to be back]; I’m looking so forward to building another winning team and I think I’ve recruited some solid kids and with what we have returning, we could another good season,” Meredith said. “We’re looking to compete.”