By Paige Carswell
It’s been a tough season all the way around for both of the tennis teams this year. Claiming one win apiece, neither the men nor the women made it to the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament for the second season in a row. This makes the KCAC Individuals Tournament on April 29 and 30 the last hoorah for both teams this year.
For some like Morgan Hubele, special education senior, the tournament will be their last ever.
“It is a weird feeling to be done,” she said. “In high school, I knew I had at least four more years to compete if I wanted to. Now, I realize I am truly done.”
Hubele said she hopes she and Katie Jackson, early childhood education junior, can win No. 1 doubles. The two have stayed competitive with other teams all year, and took a doubles match from Friends University on Saturday, giving them momentum going into the tournament.
“Every match we lost was extremely close, so my goal is to take the doubles title,” said Hubele. “I am just going to go out on the court, try my hardest and do the best I can.”
Finishing up her senior year with a 1-5 team record may not have been all she dreamed of, but Hubele has no regrets about the way she finished. “The season went as I had expected, but not as I had hoped,” she said. “Of course I wish I would have won more matches, but I did the best I could.”
One of the things she made sure she did was the age-old strategy of playing fair. “Since tennis is a sport without referees or line judges, there are many players who are not honest, and do whatever it takes to win,” she said. “My goal for this season was to be as honest and respectable as possible. Even if I lost, I wanted coaches and players from other schools to respect me, and to know I played a fair game regardless of the outcome.”
The men will say goodbye to master’s student DJ Wilson, but the rest of their team will still be together next year. They will go into the tournament with a 1-5 conference record, their lone win coming over Kansas Wesleyan. With three freshmen in the top three spots, the inexperience the men battled was sometimes tougher than what was on the other side of the net, but that was only part of the story this year, said Jessie Riggs, liberal arts sophomore.
“The level of competition this year is much higher than last year. A lot of teams returned the majority of their top players and it really showed in conference play,” said Riggs.
The high moment of the season was when the men won 7-2 over Kansas Wesleyan, with Riggs and doubles partner Jacob Mires, business junior, winning a nail-biter 9-7. But, that win came in the last part of the season—too late for the men to make a run at a conference tournament bid.
“The hardest part of the season would have to be losing two of our last three matches,” said Riggs. “We knew that we would not be able to compete in the conference tournament.”
Riggs and the rest of the squad at least have next year to look forward to, although this year was disappointing partially because of the amount of talent he felt was on the team.
“I hope next year I will just be able to continue to go out and play my game as I have these last two seasons and then be able to improve on my technique,” he said. “[Randy Smith] has really been a real help in allowing my game to be raised to the next level. I hope this will continue through the next two seasons I have of eligibility.”
While Riggs gets next year to hone his abilities, Hubele finishes up a career that has spanned 10 years.
“I started tennis in seventh grade. My options were tennis or track, so I decided to go out for tennis,” she said. She chose tennis again in high school—this time over volleyball—and has stuck with it until the end. “I never took lessons or went to camps. I have worked hard to get where I am today and have had the best coaches throughout my career.”
Season records aren’t what will stick out in Hubele’s mind when she thinks back about her time as a college athlete. Though she said she enjoys the competition, there are other aspects that have made her time on the team invaluable.
“What I will miss most about tennis is the team, doubles, traveling and the relationships I have made. I love being part of a great team,” said Hubele. “I will miss meeting other teams and learning about other schools’ tennis programs. In a sport like tennis, there is a lot of time to talk to other players and build relationships within the KCAC which I enjoy. All in all, I will miss being part of a team and competing.”
It’s a mixture of relief and sadness for the senior, who says her goodbyes to playing the sport competitively in just a few short days.
“It is a relief to know I worked hard and was a college athlete,” she said. “Being done with tennis makes me excited to become a coach and teacher in the future. It is sad to know all the practices and matches have come to an end, but I have no regrets on my tennis career.”
Paige Carswell is a senior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at email@example.com.