NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons tennis team is off to its best start ever in the NCAA era.
Heading into this weekend’s matches with North Alabama and Middle Tennessee the Lady Bisons are 3-1. One of the reasons for that success has been sophomore Lorena Djuknic, a native of Zagreb, Croatia.
She is 3-1 in singles matches, playing at No. 5 and No. 4. She has teamed with freshman Sierra Troxel to post a 2-2 record at the No. 3 spot in doubles play.
“Lorena is the type of player you love to coach,” Lady Bisons’ coach Jamie Aid said. “She is a hard worker and approaches matches with a tenacity that is contagious for our team and our Lipscomb community.”
The Lady Bisons will play North Alabama, 1-0, Saturday night at 6 p.m. inside the Whitworth Tennis Center at Hillwood off of West End Avenue at 405 Elmington Ave. Sunday the Lady Bisons will play Middle Tennessee, 3-1, at Nashboro Village at 11 a.m.
Aid points to Djuknic’s commitment to the fall workouts which were extremely challenging from a physical standpoint.
“We have seen growth over the fall from Lorena,” Aid said. “She really bought into the physical aspect and has prepared herself to be a hard opponent for any school to face.
“We know when we put Lorena on the court, no matter the position, she will fight. As a coach, that is the faith you want in any player. I have no doubt that we will see a great amount of success from Lorena this spring. She is playing with confidence and we continue to develop her game daily.”
Djuknic admits that the fall was a challenge. Volunteer strength and conditioning coach Jon Flinn put the Lady Bisons through some strenuous testing.
“We have had an amazing start to the season,” Djuknic said. “We worked really hard in the fall in preparation for the season. The fall was extremely tough. It was hard to handle the losses we had as a team, but the losses brought us together and made us want to work harder.
“They told us when we came back to school in August that the fall was going to be hard. The results we were having in the fall were not reflecting how hard we were working. Now it is paying off. It is amazing.”
Djuknic credits Aid, Flinn and assistant coach Oliver Strecker for helping to provide a strong foundation for the team.
“The whole program has changed,” Aid said. “We are more motivated than ever to compete and do our best.”
Aid talks a great deal about “the process” in working with the Lady Bisons. Djuknic says it is a combination of the mental and physical aspects of the game.
“We worked in the fall to get faster and to build our strength,” Djuknic said. “This semester it is more mental. We are focusing on `finishing’ which is our key word.”
Djuknic has made adjustments in her game, more so from a mental standpoint.
“My game is much different this season,” Djuknic said. “I am an aggressive player. But I also know now that I have to play smart. It is not going to work for me just to slam the ball.
“I started doing more thinking in practice. I am actually trying to think a step in front of my opponents.”
Like many successful athletes Djuknic spends a great deal of time watching videos of players and breaking down what works and what doesn’t work. She also studies videos of her own play.
Djuknic thinks she and Troxel play well together as a doubles team.
“I love playing doubles with Sierra,” Djuknic said. “In doubles you have to play smart. We push each other.
“We are not that similar in our styles of play. Together we are really strong.”
The fast start has the Lady Bisons playing with a new level of confidence.
“As a team we have been brought closer together as a family,” Djuknic said. “We have all raised our game to a new level."