The last time FAU women’s tennis had a winning season, YouTube and Twitter did not exist, Shrek 2 was the number one movie at the box office, and Beyonce was still a member of Destiny’s Child.
When the team ended last season with a 13-12 record, it was its best mark since 2004.
To head coach Marcy Hora-Cava, though, it was not shocking.
“I was impressed with our record,” Hora-Cava said. “I expected it.”
With six players returning from last year’s squad, the Owls will look to make 2012 an even better season. The team is led by seniors Justine Humair, Cassie Bergeron and Erika Mrazkova.
“I’m counting on my seniors, Justine, Cassie and Erika, to win most of their matches just because this is their fourth year,” Hora-Cava said. “They have a lot of experience and practice, they know what to expect from me and what to expect from the matches. So, I think they are going to be my go-to ladies on the team this year.”
Humair, born in Lausanne, Switzerland, returned home for winter break, but still sharpened her skills.
“I tried to play every day for an hour, and I did a lot of fitness,” Humair said. “I feel like this year I’m more ready than any other season.”
She feels equally sure about her team’s chances to build on last season’s success.
“I’m positive that we’re going to do better this year,” Humair proclaimed. “I feel like we have some really good players. Our three seniors are playing pretty good right now. With our experience it helps as well. I’m very confident.”
Last season, junior Marlene Ryan had a 19-11 record in singles, and a 13-14 record in doubles. She is currently ranked No. 3 in Florida and 16th nationally. Ryan wants to be the best women’s tennis player in the state once her time in Boca is over.
“I have this year and next year to do that, so hopefully by the time I graduate that will be accomplished,” Ryan said. “That’s a goal of mine.”
To do so, she increased her workout regimen in the off-season, and it has reaped benefits early on this year.
“Over the break I did a lot of fitness,” she said. “I focused on fitness a lot. I hired a new trainer outside of school here, so I really improved my fitness, trying to get faster, stronger, and I definitely feel that I have. I’ve been doing a bunch of different stuff. Pyrometrics, speed/agility stuff, which I haven’t really done in awhile. Playing within the last month, I can definitely tell a difference, just in strength and speed.”
When losses do come, instead of letting them get her down, they instead drive Ryan to perfect her game.
“Me personally, I learn a lot more from losses than wins, for sure,” Ryan said. “So every time I lose, it makes me just want to go out there. I’ll lose and an hour later, I’m ready to go back on the court to look at — this is what I need to do, this is what I messed up on, this is what I need to fix. For me, losses push me even harder to train.”
There are three freshman who Hora-Cava will depend on to provide depth to the lineup: Taylor Briggs, Catalina Ene and Natalia Tomaszewicz.
“With their arrivals, I feel that we’re going to do even better this year,” Hora-Cava said.”They were top players in Florida. They’re just going to give us those secure wins at positions four, five, and six.”
She says that tennis positions, which go from one to six, don’t matter, but rather the production does.
“Whether you win at position six, or you win at position one, we get the same amount of points,” Hora- Cava said. “So, it doesn’t really matter what position you’re playing.”
The team has won two of its first three contests this season.
A match which both the players and the coach are looking forward to is March 21 vs. FIU. After enduring a lengthy losing streak against them, revenge is on FAU’s mind.
“The team I’m most looking forward to playing is FIU. Just because they’re our rival, and are an hour away from us,” Hora-Cava said. “We haven’t beat them in…years. I can’t remember the last time. I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t (this year).”
FAU plays at Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m.