Coach Hart shoots for NCAA Tournament

WSU women’s tennis will begin the spring semester playing against a Montana State squad that includes Big Sky Conference All-Academic athletes junior Liana Bates and senior Ellie Crum. The Cougar women will follow their match against the Bobcats with a competition against the Idaho Vandals. Friday will serve as the season opener for each of the opposing schools.

The Cougars have trained every day since they returned from winter break in hopes of building off their success from the fall campaign. The 2013 portion of the season included first and second place finishes in the WSU Invitational along with the signing of Holly Monahan from Ireland.

WSU tennis Head Coach Lisa Hart said the team is ready to face outside competition after showing promise dukeing it out among one another.  

“I think we’re further ahead than we usually are, and I think that’s just a testament to the commitment and hard work that our players put in this fall and also over the break,” Hart said. “So I think that we are ahead of schedule, and I’m really pleased with where we are.”

This is Hart’s 11th year with WSU after spending time at Virginia Tech from 2000 to 2003 as a head coach. She served as an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska prior finding a home in Blacksburg, Va. The Sunnyside, Wash. native has been playing tennis since the age of five, much like many of the players on the team.

Hart said one of the unique things about tennis is the amount of time the athletes have dedicated to it. Unlike other sports, tennis is a sport most athletes commit a lifetime to rather than pick up in high school. That aspect of the sport makes these matches enjoyable because this is one of the last few opportunities the kids will compete at such a high level, Hart said.

From a numbers standpoint, the WSU tennis team doesn’t draw the sort of crowds that basketball or football games do, but Hart said when people do come out and observe they quickly gain interest and become fans.  

“I would encourage everyone to come to a match and just see if they like it and for them to come see just how hard it is,” Hart said.

WSU will kick off the 2014 dual-meet season against Montana State Friday at 10 a.m. and Idaho at 5 p.m. Both matches will take place at Hollingberry Fieldhouse.

In 2013, WSU finished off dual-match play with a 14-12 overall record and 2-8 in conference play.

Entering this season, Hart said setting goals has become a priority for her squad, and so far she is confident in her team’s ability to achieve each one they set.

“They want to be ranked within the top 30 in the country, they want to go to the NCAA tournament,” Hart said. “I think those are very attainable goals and just by their preparation it tells me that they are very serious about those goals. It’s exciting and we’re hoping to start on Friday.”