It is safe to say the Arizona women's tennis team is in good hands. Head coach Ryan Stotland, who previously spent a stint as the assistant coach for this same team from 2008-2012, is back in Tucson and is now running the show after he was hired by Athletic Director Dave Heeke back in 2018. Four years later, he has now helped turn in back-to-back top-20 recruiting classes for the program.
"I have seen progress every year, and I think that is what we're looking for is we want to get better," Stotland said. "We want to build something and nothing gets built over a day, so I think where we're at right now is significantly better each year and we're just progressing. I think we're becoming a name across the country which is what we wanted and how we can become a powerhouse."
Midori Castillo-Meza is one of the freshmen in this year's top-20 class. It's been a historic year recruiting for both of the Wildcats tennis programs as not only was Colton Smith the highest-ranked American recruit ever under Clancy Shields for the men's team, but Castillo-Meza was also the highest-ranked American recruit ever signed under Stotland during his tenure with Arizona.
"It was a great experience," Castillo-Meza said about her time being recruited by Stotland. "I was so happy when they reached out to me because I know Arizona is a great school, [and] has an amazing business school which is something that I was interested in majoring in, and I know the team had so much potential."
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The progression this program has seen since Stotland has taken over has been evident not only with the recruiting classes but also with the play on the court. The team went 12-12 overall in his first year, 10-7 the following year with the final 11 matches being canceled due to COVID-19, and then 13-12 last season so the team's success has slowly progressed each year as well.
For the second year in a row, the Wildcats have won six of their first seven matches. This season has a different feeling than last year with a great mix of experience, youth and energy on the court with this year's team, while also battling through some adversity with a COVID-19 pause to open the season.
"We have handled adversity really well," Stotland said. "We have had a lot of injuries, and we had our January canceled, so we've handled a lot of adversity. We haven't had the same lineup because we haven't been able to, so each girl is really stepping up and filling the role. If we can get healthy, we are going to be a very dangerous team."
The talk around town has primarily been around the men's tennis team, but the women's team is heading right on a similar track.
"We have beaten some teams that have been doing really good," Castillo-Meza said. "I think our expectations and goals have been set higher each time. We have got some recruits coming that are going to add so much potential and talent to the team, so I'm very excited to see what will happen."
Up next for Arizona is the Blue Gray Tennis Classic before the Wildcats gear up for conference play.
"Blue Gray [Tennis Classic] is one of the best tournaments in the country," Stotland said. "We get to see a lot of great tennis, so I'm looking just to make sure that we're competing on every single point and being ready to 'Bear Down' against the conference."
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