Shawn Hatjes

It’s 40 degrees and raining outside. About time to dust off that racket and go play some tennis, right? That is exactly what the women’s tennis team will be doing this weekend as it travels to tournaments in Las Vegas and Corvallis.

The tournaments will kick off the spring season. The top four players on the team will travel to Las Vegas for the Freeman Memorial Tournament, while the rest of the Ducks will head to the John and Phil’s Toyota Championship in Corvallis.

As of Tuesday, the four players tabbed to travel to Las Vegas were junior Pavlina Smatova, sophomore Trudie du Toit, and freshmen Julia Metzger and Sabine Fuchs.

“Obviously, we’re taking who we feel right now are our top four players,” head coach Paul Reber said. “It was a tough call. We’re pretty even one through nine, and so it was a tough call making that four-five decision.”

Siobhan Cavan is only player who will not play in Las Vegas or Corvallis over the weekend. The junior recently sustained an ankle injury, and Reber is taking a cautious approach to her recovery.

Both tournaments will be Oregon’s last before the beginning of dual match season on Jan. 22. For Reber, the weekend will provide a competitive match experience that the players have lacked since early November.

“The last time these guys played a tournament was the first weekend of November,” Reber said. “They need to be in another tournament where team record’s not on the line, but their record is on the line, just to get back in that competitive atmosphere.”

For her part, Smatova is excited to return to competition in Las Vegas.

“I would love to win as many matches as possible,” Smatova said. “I’m always impressed when I’m there, and I’m so much looking forward to (hitting) some balls and (playing) good matches.”

If nothing else, the matches will allow the players to hone their skills before the start of dual match season. Given the individual nature of tennis, each player has different things to concentrate on.

“I definitely want to focus on my backhand,” Smatova said. “Backhand is my best stroke, so I definitely want to attack opponents with my backhand.”

If the fall season is any indication, the team will play well over the weekend. Reber has seen great improvement across the board and has high expectations despite the relative youth of a team with no seniors.

“I think we’re in a great spot,” Reber said. “They’ve been working their rear ends off, and that’s all we’ve been asking from them, is just to keep pushing it … we’re only going to get better.”

Smatova was also pleased with the results of the fall season.

“This fall has been very intense in practice,” Smatova said. “I think we’ve been way more successful in our tournaments that we’ve played … the team is hard-working and looking really good this year. I think we’ll be pretty strong overall.”

Team chemistry has played a vital role in the success of the Ducks this season, and the players will likely grow even closer as the season goes on.

“This is probably the most awesome group of girls, on and off the court, I’ve ever seen,” freshman Molly McDevitt said. “They all are totally and completely dedicated to what they are doing … we love (the sport), we enjoy it, and we’re hoping that all of that shows through in these tournaments, and I expect it to.”

It has been said that a team can only go as far as its players will it to. By that mantra, it appears that the sky is the limit for the Ducks, rain or shine.

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