In April, The Rock women’s tennis team fell in the PSAC title game to rival Indiana (Pa.), but for that group of girls, that was just the beginning. After coming back from the COVID-19 year, no one really knew what to expect in general. That goes for every sport, not just tennis. But when you have a group of girls who are all from different areas in the world, it can be a little harder to get them to mesh together.
The Rock tennis team had no trouble with that, though. They finished with an impressive 13-6 record, and even better, all but one player from last year’s team returned. Jump to fall, and they’re in the midst of trying to figure out what the next steps are. The hardest part about that is simple- trying to get the weather to cooperate with their schedule.
“[The fall] is going alright, the weather hasn’t been cooperating too much, but it is what it is,” head coach Matt Meredith said.
They started out their fall schedule in September in Meadville, but more recently they competed in Bloomsburg at the ITA championships in Bloomsburg. That was their first of three trips to Bloomsburg this fall.
“We had a decent ITA’s, but we have a new part to our team and she’s getting used to being here and as she gets more comfortable, you’ll see more out of her,” Meredith said. “I think some of our veterans did very well and I think we’re showing our strength to the bottom of the lineup like we normally do.”
The newest addition to Rock tennis is Tina Slovak, who comes to Slippery Rock all the way from Reading, England. Slovak, like all but one player on the team, comes from Europe, but luckily she has others on the team to help her transition to being in the US.
One of the players who will undoubtedly help with that is Gabriela del Val del Toro, who Meredith believes has made big strides in the offseason.
“Right now, I would have to say to Gabriela del Val del Toro is doing a really good job [stepping up] to fill that leadership role, she’s playing really good tennis right now,” Meredith said.
Del Val del Toro will be one of three players to represent The Rock this weekend at the PSAC individual championships. Along with del Val del Toro will be two fellow Spaniards, Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez and Nuria Martin Lopez.
Meredith has been happy with how the team has been playing this fall, but he’s also extremely excited to get standout Teddi Isherwood back soon, as she is currently in a boot. According to Meredith, this time is good for trying to get the team to mesh together.
“It’s why we do the fall, no doubt, but it’s a great way to get us going and get us into a team atmosphere,” Meredith said.
A big part of the fall is also figuring out doubles for the spring, but Meredith has been surprised during the process of figuring those out.
“I have what I thought my doubles teams were going to be and it’s kind of changed a little bit, so I’m not sure on that yet, but in a good way,” Meredith said. “A team that I thought might play lower, might be my number one team and might push us to be stronger the whole way through because of that.”
Now the process becomes trying to get everyone acclimated to being part of the team. A lot of that will be getting their lone freshman to be comfortable, but it’ll take time and patience for it to fully begin.
“I think the biggest part is getting our freshman comfortable, and when she does, we’ll be on a whole different level,” Meredith said. “As the leadership from our upper classmen comes through this year, that’ll help her and that’s what hoping to see develop over the next couple of weeks now.”
The girls have also been to PSAC championship, so that alone sets a goal for this spring to Meredith. They’ve been there, but whether or not they have what it takes to get back will be the question.
“I think it kind of sets an expectation, all the kids that have returned know what expect and know what I expect of them,” Meredith said. “I think they’re up to the challenge.”