Following a season in which the Idaho State women’s tennis team punched its first ticket to the Big Sky Tournament since 2004 with a cast of only freshmen, the team opened its 2017 campaign with a preseason tournament held in Reed Gym.
The three-day tournament featured players from Weber State, Boise State, Utah State and Montana; and was the first of four individual tournaments the Bengals will play throughout the fall semester. The team season begins in January and is when matches start to count towards the team’s record. This fall season is all about getting better and improving confidence, something the all-freshman team didn’t have at this time last season.
“Going into the first tournament last year, some of them were pretty nervous,” said head coach Gretchen Maloney. “But now I think after having a really successful season last year they are fired up and ready to play.”
The two team captains, Louise-Mare Botes and Andrea Osborn say the team’s expectations have increased this season as well as the confidence level.
“This year, everybody knows how we play and there are no surprises,” Botes said.
“We know what to expect this time,” Osborn added. “It was kinda scary going in blindly last year. This year, we know what it takes and how hard we have to work for it.”
Last season, the team took the Big Sky Conference by storm. After a confidence-building fall season, the Bengals exploded in the spring season, finishing with a 7-4 conference record and finishing in fourth place, four spots ahead of where the conference picked them to finish at the beginning of the season.
“We are better now,” Botes said.
The team returns all nine of its members from last season and is poised to make another run at a Big Sky title in the spring season despite the added pressure and expectations.
“Last year we didn’t have pressure, but this year we do have some pressure,” Osborn said. “I think we know that. We are ready to grind this year. I think we are ready to not have excuses and make it all the way again.”
The Bengals will travel to Weber State for a tournament October 6-8 and will then travel to ITA Regionals in Salt Lake City October 11-15. The Bengals will conclude its fall season in the Treasure Valley, playing in the Boise State Tournament October 27-29. The next time Idaho State will hit the court will be in January when the team travels to Utah State.
The regional tournament will be the one that features the most talent, as Idaho State will only take its top-six players and compete against the likes of Utah and BYU.
“It’ll be really fun to see how the girls do,” Maloney said. “We play individual format, but we play a higher level of competition.”
For Maloney, the fall season is about trying out new and different ideas to solidify how she wants to attack other teams come January.
Doubles play is an area the coach plans to toy with. Although she said she doesn’t plan to split the twin-duo of Huibre-Mare and Louise-Mare Botes, she plans to rotate different pairings of players in the doubles format.
“That’s the thing about the fall, I can try some things and see how it works and if it doesn’t then we try something else the next tournament,” she said.
The twin-duo has become one of Idaho State’s useful tools in coming away with wins. Last season, Louise-Mare Botes posted a team-best 16-3 overall record and went undefeated in conference play. Her twin sister finished 14-5 and went 9-2 during conference play. Put the two together and they make for a powerful combination, combining both skill and chemistry.
“We know each other so well,” Louise-Mare Botes said. “We are together every single day. On every ball, I know what she is going to do. I like it, it’s an advantage.”