LANCASTER, Pa. - Fourth-year head coach Sean Kelleher and the Franklin & Marshall women's tennis team are looking to make steady improvements from last year in 2012. While the Diplomats produced just one team victory in 2011, several key components are back and Kelleher will also welcome in a talented group of newcomers this spring.
"I think people will see a huge difference in our team this year from last," said Kelleher. "The combination of having more talent and an improved attitude will lead to us having more success this season."
F&M will have to make up for the loss of Valeri Harteg, a team captain and one of the top players on last year's squad. Harteg played at each of the top three spots in the singles lineup a season ago and also competed primarily at No. 2 doubles. The Diplomats will also be without former No. 1 player Meredith Lackey in 2012. Lackey, who held down the No. 1 spot as a freshman in 2010, has battled ongoing shoulder issues and will be unable to re-join the team.
Leading the way for the returners will be sophomore Anya Sahaydachny and junior Danielle Weiner. Sahaydachny posted three singles wins from the No. 1 spot last season and Weiner notched four victories, mostly at No. 2 singles. The duo also paired up for eight doubles matches last spring, tallying two wins.
Senior Shannon Littlefield and sophomore Victoria Lussier also return to the lineup this season. Littlefield is the lone senior on the squad and will serve as team captain this year. She saw time at both the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions a season ago, as well as playing predominantly at No. 2 doubles. Lussier played chiefly at the No. 5 singles spot last year, while also seeing some action at No. 3 doubles.
Kelleher is excited about the addition of a strong freshmen class that he thinks will provide a solid foundation for the program over the next four years. The first-year Diplomats on this year's squad include Megan FitzMaurice, Dana Sleeper, Katherine Perry and Nina Simic. FitzMaurice and Sleeper have already had some success at the collegiate level after winning their doubles draw at the ITA Southeast Regional Championships this past fall.
The Diplomat roster will undoubtedly be one of the youngest in the conference this season with just one senior and three upperclassmen. Despite their youth, Kelleher believes he has a team with a lot of potential.
"Our focus is to be consistent with our attitude and work ethic," stated Kelleher. "If we can key in on those things, we'll be able to reach our potential and meet our goals this year."
F&M opens its season with six matches on its spring break trip to Orlando, Fla. The Diplomats first match is set for Sunday, March 11 against St. Michael's. Upon its return from down south, F&M will jump right into the CC season. The Diplomats begin CC play at Washington College on Saturday, March 24, before playing at home for the first time on Tuesday, March 27 against Johns Hopkins.