If a team is only as strong as its weakest player, the Tabor men’s and women’s tennis teams should be in good shape this season with a strong batch of newcomers mixing with returning all-conference performers Amanda Faber, Amanda Brown and David Simmet.
“The expectations are high for this season, especially for the women,” coach Chad Gayer said. “We’ve got a really good guys’ team too, so I’m excited.”
Heading into spring break, the Tabor women sported a 2-2 record and the men were 1-3.
“It’ll be interesting to see how things play out, but I’m really excited about what we have this year,” Gayer said.
Women—Tabor will likely rely heavily on Amanda Faber and Amanda Brown, who were both picked for the all-conference first team last season. Faber was also an NAIA player of the week.
“They’ve just been awesome leaders, so I’ll put pressure on them—but I know they can handle it,”coach Chad Gayer said. “We also had some good freshmen come in, so we’ll have a good women’s team.”
Among them are Becky Faber—Amanda’s younger sister—Anna Friesen and Marissa Heitt.
“(Becky Faber) will be a key player,” Gayer said. “Those are the three new players who can have an impact on the lineup.”
He said sophomores Katie Becker, Karly Lindroth Yates and Meredith Voran, and junior Erin Heizelman will be battling for the remaining spots in the lineup.
“We have plenty of options, and that’s a good problem to have,” Gayer said, adding that depth is the most important thing the newcomers add to the equation.
“It’s nice to know that if I have a player who hits a mid-season slump that I can bring somebody else in,” Gayer said. “It kind of puts a little pressure on them, they have to keep performing and playing well. I like having those options.”
He said the women’s team is pretty balanced.
“We’ll be strong at the top, but it’ll be pretty steady throughout, which is what I think makes this team so strong,” Gayer said. “We’re strong from every position.”
The Bluejays, which Gayer said are rated just beneath top team Bethel in the KCAC rankings, will need to maintain that strength to stay competitive.
“It’s hard to say, because I know what to expect with my top two players,” he said. “But when you have so many freshmen, you never know what’s going to happen.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I’m really pleased and I think they’ll be able to handle it.”
Men—The Bluejays bring depth to the mix behind the talent and experience of junior David Simmet, a second-team all-conference pick last year and a first-team selection as a freshman.
“He’s definitely been the most consistent guy we’ve had in the lineup the past few years,” coach Chad Gayer said. “He handles the pressure and the big stages really well.”
Joining Simmet on the doubles court is newcomer Kelyn Vix, a sophomore transfer from California.
“He’s a strong player,” Gayer said.
Sophomore Tyler Dort has been another consistent player for the Bluejays, he added.
“We’ve had guys on the team who have been on the team for awhile, but they’re just now kind of working their way up into the spotlight,” he said. “I expect consistency from them.”
Gayer said depth has always been key for the Bluejays, especially for the men.
“Depth has always been how we win matches,” he said. “Lots of teams will have one or two really good players, and then drop off a little bit. We’ve always been able to win lots of matches at the four, five and six spots.”
Tabor will look to its depth and consistency to be competitive against top two teams Bethany and McPherson, and give them a shot at third in the conference.
“It’s a bit of a consensus that there’s going to be a dogfight for the No. 3 spot between Bethel, Friends and us,” Gayer said, adding that Southwestern and Kansas Wesleyan might be in the mix as well.
What’s it going to take to win?
“Lots of focus,” Gayer said. “Coming out every day ready to battle, because we’re going to have a lot of those this year in the conference.”