Ever since head coach Vicky Maes replaced Brad Dancer as the University of Arizona women’s tennis coach 12 years ago, she has constantly produced a solid lineup each season that has helped Arizona transform from a team struggling to stay above a .500 record to a serious contender in the Pac-12 conference. The season before Maes arrived as head coach, the UA suffered through a 10-12 losing season. The Wildcats bounced back to 12-11 in her first year and since Maes was hired in 2000, the Wildcats have compiled a 118-115 overall record.
“Our expectations have gone up year after year as our team has gotten stronger and stronger,” Maes said. “We have been able to steadily move up the rankings over the past four years and we look to do that again this spring.”
Looking to lead the team this season are juniors Lacey Smyth and Kim Stubbe. The fall season begins with the Riviera ITA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif., from Sept. 29 to Sept. 30.
“Lacey is a great asset to our program, in every way,” Maes said. “She just loves being on the court and she is a master of preparation.”
Smyth played the No. 1 spot in the singles lineup last year and complied an impressive record of 14-11, along with a 16-7 doubles record. Smyth carried the team with key wins over nationally ranked players such as Washington’s Denise Dy (No. 11), Arizona State’s Jacqueline Cako (No. 15), University of North Carolina’s Zoe De Bruycker (No. 28), and North Carolina State’s Joelle Kissell (No. 46).
Stubbe, a native of Belgium, played last year mostly in the No. 4 spot for singles, earning a remarkable 12-6 record while defeating UCLA’s nationally ranked Skylar Morton (No. 116). In addition, Stubbe thrived in doubles, boasting a 13-4 record.
“We have already seen what Lacey can do, but I know we will be able to rely a lot on Kim Stubbe as well,” Maes said. “She is a terrific athlete and she will really move up the rankings this year.”
Despite their impressive statistics last year, Smyth and Stubbe still look to improve their game for the upcoming season.
“I plan to overcome my mental game,” Smyth said. “I am very hard on myself and don’t give myself much slack. I think it hurts me sometimes to take things so seriously.”
While Smyth focuses on her mental game, Stubbe is determined to improve her team skills.
“Last year we did well in doubles matches,” Stubbe said. “I feel that this year, we have to do even better. Winning doubles has to be a necessity. The team just has to contribute and be there for each other. Everyone knows what they have to do.”
After losing two key seniors at the end of last season, Maes wants to incorporate fresh talent and competition into the Wildcat’s lineup.
“I think we lost some crucial players to graduation last year in the forms of Natasha Marks and Sarah Landsman who played the No. 2 and 3 positions.” Stubbe said. “This year, we’ve got great replacements in the form of two freshmen and a junior transfer from South Carolina State.”
With a new lineup adding depth to the Wildcats, Arizona looks to be tough competition come spring.
“Everyone is motivated and excited right now but there will be times when fatigue or other obstacles kick in,” Maes said. “That’s when we will really need to maintain focus.”