Tabor tennis teams add talent and experience

These athletes comprise the Tabor College women?s tennis team this season: (from left) Kiana Fujioka, Naima Mexsen, Mandi Hiett, Celeste Worthy, Chloe Lind, Jessica Emoto, Lindsey Stroud. Not pictured: Heidi Klaassen.
These athletes comprise the Tabor College women?s tennis team this season: (from left) Kiana Fujioka, Naima Mexsen, Mandi Hiett, Celeste Worthy, Chloe Lind, Jessica Emoto, Lindsey Stroud. Not pictured: Heidi Klaassen.
With a mix of returning and new talent, the Tabor College tennis teams are primed for success this year under fourth-year coach John Ruder.

Women?s team

The women return five members of last year?s 6-9 squad that finished sixth in the KCAC with a 2-5 record.

Heading the list is returning No. 1, Jessica Emoto. The sophomore is ranked seventh nationally in singles and is the top-ranked women?s player in the ITA?s Central Region.

?(Jessica?s) got very solid strokes that are real consistent, and she?s mentally tough,? Ruder said. ?She can keep the ball going back. Nothing phases her. She just hangs in there and keeps playing.?

Ruder has added a new No. 2 singles player in freshman Naima Mexsen from Gomez Palayio, Mexico.

?She?s a solid player from the baseline, and we?re working to improve her net game, and she?s getting better,? Ruder said. ?She?s also very mentally strong and improving.?

Tabor?s No. 3 through No. 6 singles players are all returners, beginning with junior Celeste Worthy, who moved from No. 4 to No. 3 this season.

?Celeste is also a really good baseline player, but when I can get her to the net she?s good up there, too,? Ruder said.

Sophomore Heidi Klaassen will fill the No. 4 spot this year.

?She?s a really good singles player, very consistent,? Ruder said. ?She can come to the net and play it.?

Klaassen and Emoto will fill the No. 1 doubles spot.

Junior Kiana Fujioka remains at No. 5 singles this year.

?Kiana?s game has really come up this year,? Ruder said. ?She?s improved her shots and her strategy.?

Sophomore Lindsey Stroud will play No. 6 singles this season.

?She?s been playing solid tennis for us at that singles spot,? Ruder said. ?I think she?ll probably be moving into our doubles lineup because she?s showed me she?s playing good doubles, too.?

Ruder said his doubles lineup remains subject to change. To start the season, Emoto and Klaassen filled the No. 1 spot, Mexsen and Worthy were No. 2, and Fujioka, Stroud and newcomer Mandi Hiett had all seen time at No. 3.

Hiett, a freshman, brings height to the court.

?She?s 6-1, so she can really cover the net,? Ruder said. ?She?s got a good serve and a good overhead.?

Tabor was picked by KCAC coaches to finish fourth in the conference, but Ruder anticipates a competitive race behind unanimous conference favorite McPher?son.

?There?s about five teams that are all battling for the two through four spot,? he said. ?I think we?re right in there with them.?

The Tabor College men?s tennis team consists of these athletes: (from left) Reggie Koop, Harry Faber, Gallagher Martin-Chavez, Illia Filanchuk, Angel Miguel, Stephen Wilson, Jeff Pritchard.
The Tabor College men?s tennis team consists of these athletes: (from left) Reggie Koop, Harry Faber, Gallagher Martin-Chavez, Illia Filanchuk, Angel Miguel, Stephen Wilson, Jeff Pritchard.

Men?s team

The men have brought in new talent at the top of the lineup to strengthen a roster that includes three players from last year?s 1-13 season.

Ruder said the Bluejays lacked a solid top of the lineup that could overpower opponents.

?They could compete, but they couldn?t win at that spot,? he said. ?It was a rough year for them.?

This year, Ruder is confident he has brought in talent to lend itself to success and depth.

Sophomore Illia Filan?chuk comes to Tabor from Kiev, Ukraine, and is Tabor?s No. 1 singles player.

?He?ll be able to compete with any No. 1 in our conference,? Ruder said. (He) gives us that ability to win at the top that we?ve been lacking on the men?s side for the last couple years.?

Tabor?s No. 2, Angel Miguel, is a freshman from Valencia, Spain.

?He?s used to playing on clay, so he?s still kind of adjusting to hard court, but he has got a really good serve, really good forehand, and he?s going to really compete well at the (No. 2),? Ruder said.

Filanchuk and Miguel will play No. 1 doubles.

Junior Harry Faber is one of three returners. He is playing No. 3 singles.

?He?ll do real well in our conference,? Ruder said. ?He?s very coachable and a great athlete. His shots are getting better.?

Freshman Reggie Koop from Abilene will fill the No. 4 role.

?There?s a lot of things he?s learning as we go through,? Ruder said. ?He?s doing well. He?s playing a lot of close matches, and he?s getting better. He?s going to do real good once we get to the conference teams.?

Returner Stephen Wilson, a sophomore, has moved from No. 6 to No. 5.

?(Stephen?s) playing with a whole lot more confidence and starting to use his size,? Ruder said. ?He?s hitting big serves and big groundstrokes and getting to the net and putting volleys away.?

Koop and Wilson will fill the No. 2 doubles role.

Freshman Gallagher Mar?tin-Chavez of McPher?son completes Tabor?s singles lineup. He was a member of the Class 4A state champion boys? doubles team a year ago.

Martin-Chavez and Faber make up the No. 3 doubles team.

Junior Jeff Pritchard is Tabor?s third returner and has seen some doubles action this season.

With the pieces in place, Ruder is confident the Bluejays will pick up more wins this time around. Tabor has already recorded more wins than last year.

?We?re starting to build depth now,? Ruder said. ?We?ve actually got a top end that can compete, so that?s got people playing where they should be playing, where they can compete. We?re a lot better team.?