Senior Briana Bodner returns a volley during play last year. Bodner is one of four seniors on the women’s tennis team this season. NT File Photo.
49ers alumni Tyler Baker returns a volley during play last year. NT File Photo.

Tennis is a year-round affair, putting its players to work in the fall continuing through the spring. The women’s tennis team has been practicing and perfecting their game for the past few weeks and finally will see some action as tournament play begins. The 49ers are coming off a 10-10 2015-16 season.

Last season two of Charlotte’s returning players, Tai Martin and Macy Vonderschmidt were named to the third-team All-Conference USA squad. It was the first time in the history of the program that multiple players were named to an All-Conference USA team.

This year the squad is headlined by four seniors, making up almost half of the group. Having a solid group of veterans that know the standards of the program allows the younger players on the team to learn how the team is run from their example.

“They know what the season will be like, what we expect as coaches, what we’re looking to do and what we’re trying to accomplish as a team. They can take the younger people under their wing and show them the way it should be done,” head tennis coach Michaela Gorman said.

One of the seniors, Vonderschmidt, is already seeing the effects of senior leadership before tournament play even begins.

“We’re almost 50 percent of the team so we can show the new people and the younger players how they should be acting and playing. I think they are already performing in a way that we want them to so that’s nice,” Vonderschmidt said.

There is a new vibe coming for the women’s tennis team this year according to Vonderschmidt.

“Our team dynamic is completely different from last year in a good way. We’re all really excited and we’re all working really hard,” Vonderschmidt said.

In addition to three new players this season, the 49ers welcomed a new assistant coach Caroline Price. Price played four years of tennis at Carolina where she was named an All-American her junior and senior season and became the first women’s tennis player to receive the prestigious Patterson Medal. She spent last year as the volunteer assistant for the team and she was promoted to full-time assistant coach for this season. Price just came off of a ten-week internship with the USTA and is bringing a new energy to the courts.

“The transition has been really easy which is great. She was a great college player and she had an awesome internship this summer with UTSA so she got the see the best of the best in terms of players and competition. She’s here, she’s hungry and we’re excited,” Gorman said.

Caroline Price officially joins the 49ers team as assistant coach this season. NT File Photo.
Caroline Price officially joins the 49ers team as assistant coach this season. NT File Photo.

The first weeks before tournament play started the team has been working on conditioning and tightening up their game.

“I’ve been proud of the way they’ve been working. I’ve been pushing them really hard with a lot of fitness and small group stuff. They’ve really been pushing each other which is great. We’ve been focusing on your fitness and making sure we’re good to go,” Gorman said.

The tournaments the 49ers will partake in for the remainder of the fall allow the coaches to get a glimpse of what their players look like when going against strong competitors.

“The tournaments are designed to give the players a lot of matches, a lot of competition. We’ll play against some of the players we will see again in the spring but it gives us a first look at how we are in competition mode, see things we need to work on, things we’re good at,” Gorman said.

The 49ers saw action this past weekend in the COFC Invitational. Alexandra Lee also found her way to the championship round of B1 singles, taking home the title. Martin showcased her talents winning her way to the A1 Singles championship round, falling short claiming second place. In doubles play Briana Bodner and Alexandra Lee won in the quarterfinals and won in her semi, taking third. Megan Smith came in third in the B1 singles. Pierina Imparato and Tai Martin came in seventh place in A1 doubles. Briana Bodner also took home third place in the B3 singles.

The 49ers go to Wilmington to partake in the UNC-Wilmington Invitational this weekend. They will face schools from around the Carolinas.

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.