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August 6, 2008

2008-09 Season - Vikings look to continue upward movement in women's tennis in 2008-09

After posting a winning record for the first time since 2002-03 and placing in the top three in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin for the first time since 2001-02, Augustana head women’s tennis coach Adam Strand is understandably excited about his team’s progress. His 2007-08 team went 13-10 overall and was 4-2 in the CCIW, good enough for third place. The last time the Vikings had a winning record was in 2002-03 when they went 12-5 under then-head coach Todd Creal and the last time they were third in the conference was in 2001-02 under the direction of Josh Baldridge. The 13 victories were the most since the 1999-00 team was 13-7 with Larry Flaherty at the helm.

Strand’s team has made great progress and he begins his third year as the head coach with a 23-22 overall record. He is also the head coach for the Augustana men and has compiled a 45-31 record in three seasons. His first women’s season was in 2006-07 and the Vikings went 10-12 overall, 3-3 in the CCIW and placed fourth in the conference tournament.

“We finished in the top three in the CCIW last fall and that was a goal of ours before the season began,” said Strand. “Now we want to prove that our program belongs at that level so our goal this year will be to establish consistency.”

Although his 2007-08 team did not sport a single senior, Strand will be without four players who contributed heavily to last year’s success. Junior Tricia Crawford (Decorah HS, Decorah, Iowa), a second team all conference performer last year, will spend the fall quarter studying in Costa Rica and sophomore Sheri Hendricks (Wheaton Warrenville South HS, Warrenville, Ill.) is recovering from knee surgery. Two other players – Kaitlin Kulovitz and Audrey Yenchek, decided not to return to school. Despite the loss of those four players, Strand will be able to welcome back four letterwinners who helped quite a bit.

“There is no question that our program has made great strides and we look at this as an opportunity for some players to step up and contribute,” said Strand. “We will get Tricia and Sheri back for our spring season, which will make us stronger but it will be fun to see the other accept the challenge in their absence.”

Sophomore Jenna Richardson (Melrose Park Walther Lutheran HS, Bellwood, Ill.) leads the returners and will probably handle the number one position. She was a second team all-conference pick in 2007-08 and she compiled a record of 18-11 overall and was voted the team’s MVP. She is 36-21 during her career at Augustana.

Alli Bernardi (Rockford Lutheran HS, Belvidere, Ill.), the lone senior on the team, was 15-12 a year ago while splitting time between three and four. Junior Emily Doemland (Downers Grove South HS, Westmont, Ill.) went 13-13 in 2007-08 and she also split time between three and four. Both of those players will be in the top half of the lineup this fall. Junior Rose Szczurek (Lemont HS, Lemont, Ill.) was 5-2 as a sophomore and sophomore Tricia Sapio (Barrington HS, South Barrington, Ill.) was the team’s Most Valuable Freshman a year ago and posted a 5-7 record. They will battle for the number four singles position. Any of the four incoming freshmen will also be counted on to contribute.

“We are looking forward to the season,” said Strand. “This team has made great progress over the past couple of years and there is no question that we need some people to step up and perform.”