April 21, 2011
RUSTON - With a win or a loss in its final tennis match of the regular season on Saturday, for the first time since 1996, the Louisiana Tech women's tennis team will finish the season with a winning record.
The Lady Techsters are currently 11-7 on the season, the most wins since a 12-4 finish in 1996.
The signs of improvement go beyond the win-loss record. When head coach Quinton Yray arrived at Louisiana Tech in 2007, his team suffered 10 shutouts while struggling to a 1-15 record. They were shutout 11 times in 2008, 13 times in 2009 and eight times in 2010. This season, the Lady Techsters suffered just two shutouts, once against Fresno State and another at Hawai'i which are the in the top half of the Western Athletic Conference.
Another sign of improvement has been the level of student-athletes Yray has recruited to Ruston. In 2006, Tech's roster was full of players who were ranked in the 1,500s-to-2,000s of the International Tennis Federation rankings and some were not ranked at all. That's when Yray took his recruiting skills the international route.
"I went out there to talk to these people in different parts of the world, and they must have thought, `This guy is willing to come out and spend time in a foreign country,'" Yray said. "They met me, they must have liked my personality, and they thought that what I said corresponded with what they wanted for their daughters."
Tech's 2011 roster certainly has international flavor with players from France, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and South Africa.
Every season, Yray has brought in a better recruiting class than the previous year. For evidence, look at this season's roster. Sophomore Vivian ten Dolle, a member of the 2010 all-WAC Newcomer Team, played No. 1 singles last season and this season, is Tech's No. 2 singles player and boasts a record of 10-2.
Taking her spot at No. 1 singles this season has been Elne Barnard. Yray said that Barnard and ten Dolle are interchangeable at the No. 1 position, but the South African has played the top spot in every match this season and has put together a 14-12 record.
Last season, the Lady Techsters won its first-ever WAC match with a 5-2 win over San Jose State. With a 0-4 record in conference and only Saturday's match with 4-1 Nevada remaining, it is a possibility that Tech might end the season winless in the WAC, despite being a better and more talented team. Not every team in the WAC plays one another during the regular season and this year, Tech will not get the opportunity to face 0-3 San Jose State and 0-5 Utah State.
For now, the Lady Techsters will cherish every win and celebrating conference wins like conference championships. With a no seniors on this team and with a few more years of top recruits flying in from all over the world to Ruston, Yray believes the future of his program is to compete for the WAC title.
"Next for us is to break into the middle of the WAC," Yray said. "If that happens there are a lot of recruits that will start to look at us. We've made progress in the WAC, and if we can do that, then maybe a year or two later we can make a bid to win it or at least be the runner-up."
Louisiana Tech hosts third-place Nevada (10-9, 4-1 WAC) Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Louisiana Tech Tennis Complex. All nine conference teams will then head to Boise, Idaho to compete in the WAC Tournament beginning on April 28.