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5The Lakeland College women's tennis team plans to be more of a factor in the Northern Athletics Conference than perhaps may be expected of the team in 2012.
The Muskies were picked to finish in a tie for 10th in the NAC this season based on a preseason poll of league coaches. That would be on par with where Lakeland finished last year in conference (3-8 to finish 10th), but second year Head Coach Casey Carr is looking to surprise a few teams this year.
"We're excited, there's a different attitude this year," Carr said. "After having a year, the team sees what we're trying to accomplish and what our goals are, they understand them and they're responding to them."
The Muskies enter the season with a small team of seven players, but that is more than enough to field the six singles and three doubles teams needed for dual matches. The team's depth also should enable it to compete against most teams it faces, as several experienced veterans have been joined by newcomers who will play at key positions.
All-NAC pick Nicole Shavlik was the team's leader last year at No. 1 singles but now is an assistant coach with the team. Senior April Schmitz (Sheboygan, Wis.) will open the season at No. 1 singles. The only senior on the team, Schmitz is the team's leader in experience and on the court. Last year she was 5-7 competing at No. 2 singles and also teamed with Shavlik at No. 1 doubles to post an 8-4 record.
"She hits as hard as any player in the conference, and has wonderful groundstrokes," Carr said. "If her confidence is there, she can compete for a conference championship."
Freshman Lynn Pipke (Greenfield, Wis.) is a key recruit on this year's team who will open the year at No. 2 singles and also will join Schmitz at No. 1 doubles. Carr anticipates Pipke being a player to build the future of the program around in this year and coming years.
"Lynn is the hardest working year-round player on the team," Carr said. "She loves the game of tennis, she plays a lot and it shows. (And) she's already shown excellent leadership skills as a freshman."
At No. 3 singles will be Jenna Oberthaler (Jr.-Iron Mountain, Mich.). Oberthaler also competed at No. 3 singles last year, and Carr is looking forward to seeing her improvement.
"I'm excited to see what she can do this year," Carr said. "She worked hard in the offseason for this season, and for that she deserves to have a very positive year this year."
Erica Hoffmann (Jr.-Sheboygan Falls, Wis.) is another newcomer to the team who comes with an interesting back story. Hoffmann comes to Lakeland from San Jose State University in California, where she did not play tennis for the NCAA Division I Spartans but went to attend coming out of high school before returning back home this year.
Brittany Jurek (Jr.-Gladstone, Mich.) opens the season at No. 5 singles. Also a softball player at Lakeland, last year Jurek picked up tennis for the first time and was a very respectable 3-1 in singles. She also will compete at No. 2 doubles with Hoffmann.
Alissa Stephani (So.-Appleton, Wis.) returns for her sophomore season. She competed in limited action at No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles last year and will again be in the running for both spots. Stephani will open the season at No. 6 singles
The final member of the team is Samantha Tonn (Fr.-Wisconsin Dells, Wis.), the third newcomer to the squad. Tonn will join Oberthaler at No. 3 doubles to start the season and also will be competing with Stephani for play at No. 6 singles, and Carr said he expects a lot from both spots this year.