By Joey Petrich
The 2012 Saint Mary’s University tennis teams have begun preparing for their first matches of the season.
The women serve up their dual-meet season opener competing in “Think Pink Day” on Feb. 3 against Winona State at 3 p.m. and Northwestern College at 6 p.m. The men will also start their season with a dual-meet on Feb. 4 against the Milwaukee School of Engineering at noon and Luther College at 6 p.m. Both events will be held in Winona at the indoor tennis center.
Cardinal tennis will not have an easy time in conference play this year, according to Head Coach Jeff Halberg. He said it is the deepest team he has ever seen in his tenure as a coach at Saint Mary’s.
“The MIAC is one of, if not the toughest, tennis conference in the nation,” said Halberg. “Most top players in the MIAC are players who could have played division one but chose to play division three.”
After last season, the women’s team lost a couple of players, but added five new freshmen to their squad, including the addition of McKennah Edwards from Fond Du Lac, Wis. Edwards was the runner-up at the United States Tennis Association’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional Championships this fall.
She has joined her two older sisters, junior Killian and senior Bailey Edwards on the women’s team. Halberg said the Edwards sisters will play a pivotal role for the women’s team this year. SMU has never had three siblings playing on the same team.
The men’s team didn’t lose many players from last season. They don’t have any new freshmen recruits, but their players now are experienced and seasoned. Juniors Sam Puff and Mike Lunka are coming into their third season with the team. However, the team lost sophomore Tim Wolford because of a knee injury, but they are hopeful that he will return mid-season.
One of the things the tennis teams would love to change is student attendance at their matches. “We’re a little bit of a secret on campus,” Halberg said. The tennis team plays in downtown Winona at the Indoor tennis center located at 360 Vila Street and all matches are free for students to attend.