NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb women’s tennis coach Jamie Aid has a lot more pieces to her roster puzzle this season and she is having fun moving them around looking for the best fit.
Aid has nine players eligible this season, her deepest roster since becoming the head coach in 2013. Each week practices will determine who plays and where in the order they will be. Aid is looking forward to the competition.
“This is the problem I have wanted to have since I have been the coach,” Aid said. “It is a great problem to have week-to-week. Hopefully, we won’t second-guess ourselves about the lineup.
“Our practices have become more competitive across the board. They are competing nightly. We played matches last week and three of the four matches went to a 10-point tie-breaker. It was unbelievable play.”
A new piece was officially added Thursday afternoon when Hanna Victorsson, a native of Stockholm, Sweden; was approved to play this spring. Victorsson, 5-8, is a junior. She is a transfer from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and started her college career at Texas Christian.
“Hanna is a thinker,” Aid said. “She is a student of the game. We are trying to pull in girls who are thinkers who play at a high level.
“She brings a lot of energy to the court. She is very peppy on the court. She also is a good doubles player. She was ranked ninth in her region this past season at UMBC. “
The Lady Bisons, weather-permitting, will open the season on the road against Chattanooga Friday at 5 p.m. at the McCallie School. They are seeking their third consecutive berth in the Atlantic Sun Tournament having advanced last season to the semifinals.
“We want to be able to compete for the championship,” Aid said. “When you look at the way the Atlantic Sun stacks up we are right there.
“Every year it is a challenge to take it to the next step. Hopefully, we will be able to tap into that depth.”
Aid is not certain the order of the players in the singles matches. She is also doing some fine-tuning on her doubles pairings as well.
“We are going to be playing around with a lot of things,” Aid said. “We are going to be young at the top.
“Depth is what wins matches. We are going to have senior leadership down through the lineup. You clinch matches in positions three through six. We won 90 percent of our doubles points last year and that is a key as well.”
This season Aid is taking some new approaches. There will be no reference to a player as being No. 1 or No. 6.
“The spots at the top and bottom are not defined yet,” Aid said. “There are definitely girls who are going to be playing in the top four though we may move them around. There is also competitiveness at the bottom.”
Another change is there will be no team captain this season. Aid has three seniors in Melissa Kromer, Danielle Kinnen and Lorena Djuknic. Aid said she expects every player on the team to be a leader.
“We have recruited the past two years on everybody being a leader,” Aid said. “The seniors have taken over the leadership role as upper classmen. The expectations are high for all three seniors. They have really been pulling the team together.”
“Dani was really competitive last year. She had a great fall. Lorena also had a great fall. It was refreshing to see her play her game again. Melissa knows her game. All three seniors know their game.”
Three players in the mix at the top of the order along with Victorrson are junior Laura Kent, sophomore Hannah Gamage and freshman Katerina “Kate” Kandyba.
“Kate has a big game,” Aid said. “She has huge forehand. She is a lefty which gives opponents a lot of problems. She is a big thinker on the court for someone who is so young.
“Laura is a huge competitor. She is one of those players who is all in when the spring season begins. She gets out there and fights every week.”
Sophomore Kathryn Evans and freshman Thabile “Tabby” Tshatedi are also in the mix.
“Tabby struggled with a wrist injury in the fall and that made it hard for her to play,” Aid said. “She is green-lighted to play now. She has a great attitude and she works hard. It will be interesting to see where she lines up.
“She and Kate had a great fall doubles-wise. They had some good wins. They will be an interesting team to look at during the non-conference portion of the season.”
Evans is also playing at a high level. Aid was especially impressed with the way Evans improved over the Christmas break.
“You can tell all our girls worked out and were hitting, but the most improved over the break would be Kathryn Evans,” Aid said. “Kathryn has a great chance this year to add to the depth. She also had a great doubles season in the fall with Lorena.”
Gamage is coming off rehab for an injury. She started workouts in October, but has not played in a match against another team since the A-Sun Tournament in 2015.
“Hannah definitely put in the work over the summer,” Aid said. “She started hitting in October. We held her out of matches in the fall to be safe.
“She is excited to be able to play again. There are some nerves that go along with that. She is more mature this year. She has been playing really well in practice.”
Gamage is a power player but as part of the maturation process she has become more of a thinker on the court as well.
“Hannah has one speed and that is going as hard as she can,” Aid said. “She has some weapons – her serve, her forehand and her overhead. She plays a powerful game and we have to balance that out with playing consistent tennis too.”
Consistency is a key phrase for the Lady Bisons this season. Aid is looking for consistency in how her players react after a win as well as how they react after a loss.
“We are looking for consistency from each of them during the day from eating right and getting their sleep to practices and matches,” Aid. “Being consistent will have a great influence on our success.”