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Young tennis team looks to juniors for leadership

October 3, 2013

Kelsey Hochberger returns a shot against UW-Oshkosh in the match on Sept. 27. Hochberger lost the match by the scores of 6-0 and 7-5.
Kelsey Hochberger returns a shot against UW-Oshkosh in the match on Sept. 27. Hochberger lost the match by the scores of 6-0 and 7-5. (Alex Gajdosik/Student Voice)

With a new head coach and only eight total players, the UW-River Falls tennis team is leaning on its three juniors to be leaders this season.

UWRF has no seniors on the team, so the leadership has come from the three juniors: Makayla Newberry, Brittany Mohn and Hannah Klimek.

“They bring good experience in practice and have a real willingness to adapt to my coaching style which has helped,” said first year Head Coach Michele Bailey.

The three juniors have stepped into the leadership role after losing six players from last years team.

“We are the leaders of the team, everyone comes to us,” Mohn said.

Newberry agreed but also stated that the whole team provides leadership and that there are no set captains on the team.

UWRF is just over halfway done with its fall season. The team has had a tough start and is sitting at an 0-6 overall record. “It has been a struggle but we have come a long way,” Klimek said.

Some of the top performers this season have been Klimek, Kelly Mendel and Kelsey Hochberger. Mendel, a freshman for UWRF, was named the player of the week after a dual meet against UW-Oshkosh. She won in straight sets 6-1 and 6-4.

Mendel and Klimek were also named the doubles team of the week after winning 8-5 in their match against Oshkosh. Bailey said that Hochberger has one of the best work ethics she has seen.

“She works hard every practice and always leaves exhausted,” Bailey said.

Bailey mentioned that Klimek has impressed her most in match play.

“She is the most mentally tough player on the team. She has faced some tough opponents but always works hard to adjust throughout the match,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the team wants to try new things, but it is tough playing in the WIAC.
“The WIAC is one of the toughest conferences out there. We are playing teams with a lot more experienced players and coaches, which makes it hard for us to try new things,” Bailey said.

Bailey had been a tennis instructor at the Wooddale Tennis and Health Club in Woodbury, Minn., the past four years. She worked with both junior and adult players in drills, match play and instruction, according to uwrfsports.com

“The University has been super welcoming and all the other coaches here have been encouraging and are always offering to help in any way they can,” Bailey said.

“She really is individualized in her coaching and works well one on one with us,” Mohn said.

Bailey talked a lot about the team being innovative this season and looks for that to be a key factor as the season goes on. She said through innovation the players will be able to adjust and take some risks in order to win. Another area she is working hard on is conditioning.

“We cannot catch up in experience that other players have, but we can improve our fitness. I want us to be the toughest team around,” Bailey said.

Newberry echoed what her coach said, “She has really kicked our butts, but brings a lot of positive energy.”

All three juniors agreed their goal is to finish 5th in the WIAC and they believe that goal is still attainable with three more matches against WIAC teams and the WIAC tournament still left this season.

“We just need to be positive and work on our mental game moving forward,” Klimek said.

One of the things Newberry said they need to work on is being more aggressive. “We have been told by other teams that we are to nice.”

The tennis team will play their next match at 9 a.m., on Saturday, Oct 5, at UW-La Crosse.