Women’s tennis team set to take on tough schedule

IUS Horizon

Emma LaDuke and Kelsey Wisman warm-up with hand-eye coordination drills at women’s tennis practice.
Emma LaDuke and Kelsey Wisman warm-up with hand-eye coordination drills at women’s tennis practice.

Since beginning his coaching career at IU Southeast 12 years ago, coach Bill Ryall’s women’s tennis team has won the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference the past 10 years and have been national champions three times. This season the team is young with five incoming freshmen and no seniors, but Ryall said he is confident the team will continue to be tough competition.

“This team is extremely young. I’m excited because we have a great group of incoming freshmen who are talented and have a great work ethic. It is a coach’s dream,” Ryall said.

Emma LaDuke, accounting freshman, comes to IU Southeast from Floyd Central High School where she and her doubles partner, Kayla Prusinski, advanced through sectional and regional to play in the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals in Indianapolis.

“Even though I only play doubles, I am excited to get in there and see the competition this season,” LaDuke said.

LaDuke said the team is a close-knit group with good leadership and a strong line-up of single and doubles players.

“The strong line-up and the leadership make for a good team all around,” LaDuke said.

Britta Oliver, business junior, is stepping into the role as team captain this season for the first time. Oliver said she is really excited about this season because the four returning players and the incoming freshmen have bonded well and made a really good fit.

Oliver, who has been playing tennis since she was a junior in high school, said it is very strange to her to the captain and she said she cannot believe she is the oldest player. 

“I think the team’s skills are strong and each player is evenly matched. All the players get along well as a team, that’s important,” Oliver said.

Tabitha Collins, bio-chemistry freshman, was still in high school when she played Oliver at a United States Tennis Association match two summers ago. After the match she talked with Oliver and said she was impressed with the IU Southeast team.

Collins hails from Kentucky where she attended Bullitt East High School. As a high school player Collins, like LaDuke, made her way to the state finals.

Collins also practiced with Center College before she made her final decision to attend IU Southeast.

“Everyone on the IUS team is a good player. It is hard to place everyone because each player is as good as the other,” Collins said.

Collins also said college tennis is more of a challenge and the competition overall is more consistent than high school play.

However, Collins said she does agree with Oliver and LaDuke who said they thought college play was less demanding than high school.

All three players said in high school you were expected to be an athlete first and a student second. But Ryall said one of the great things about IU Southeast is the idea that athletes are students first.

“I am most proud of the fact that every year our players have been named Academic All-
American students,” Ryall said.

Overall Ryall said he has a very good team this season. He said while returning members continue to improve each season, the incoming freshman have a tremendous impact on the team because their skills are very close to those of returning players.

Ryall said he deliberately scheduled the best competition available for this season so the women will be ready for the KIAC conference in November.

Although the team has already competed in two invitational meets, taking on division II and division III schools, their season does not officially begin until they go up against Hanover College on Sept. 9.

Staff Writer