The Trinity Tigers women’s tennis team opens its spring season Feb. 1 by hosting NCAA Division II member St. Edward’s University.
Trinity, ranked No. 27 in the NCAA Division III, will have a new head coach for the dual-match campaign. Russell McMindes, the men’s coach for the past two years, has also taken on the duties of leading the Tiger women’s team.
Coach McMindes, who guided the Tiger men to two Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships, and two trips to the NCAA Tournament, is pleased with the effort of his new charges.
“They all carry a great enthusiasm,” Coach McMindes said. “It is a very unified group, and it all comes to light when you put them in a dual-match season. This season will be promising, because the players are ready to pursue the goals we set throughout the year.”
The two Tiger newcomers have already made their mark on the Trinity tennis program.
First-year player Mackenzie Knoop (Albuquerque, N.M./Albuquerque Academy) captured the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southwest Region Singles title in September, at Tyler, Texas. Knoop later teamed with first-year Stephanie Williamson (Katy, Texas/Taylor), a transfer from JUCO powerhouse Lee College, to win the Regional Doubles crown.
Knoop and Williamson advanced to the ITA National Small College Championships in October at Mobile, Ala. In singles, Knoop finished in sixth place, and competed in the doubles event with Williamson.
Sophomore Kylie Hornbeck (Kansas City, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) was singles runner-up to Knoop at the Regional Tournament. The singles semifinals also belonged to Trinity, as Knoop beat junior Thavindra Ekanayake (Columbo, Sri Lanka/Visakha Vidyalaya). Hornbeck was a winner over senior Katie Griffith (Spokane, Wash./Ferris) in the other semifinal match. Knoop and Williamson defeated Griffith and senior Kassie Seger (Boise, Idaho/Dallas Bishop Kelly) in the Regional Doubles final.
Last season’s Tigers finished the campaign with a 9-9 record. Trinity was edged 5-4 by Sewanee: the University of the South in the SCAC Championship semifinals at North Little Rock, Ark. The Tigers bounced back to take third place, with a 6-3 victory over Centre.
Ekanayake is one of nine returning players from the 2011 season. She earned a bid to the NCAA Singles Tournament, held at Claremont, Calif., and lost in a tightly played first-round match.
Griffith registered a 7-10 singles record, and went 9-2 in doubles with Megan Jackson, who graduated. The talented Griffith was an NCAA Singles competitor in 2010. Seger sported a 5-0 doubles record with graduate Erin Jamison. Also back from the senior class is veteran Melissa Ponder (Katy, Texas/Katy).
Hornbeck leads the five returning sophomores. Her mother is the former Mary Quinn, who was a member of the Tiger women’s team in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hornbeck put up a solid 10-7 single record last season in dual matches.
Also returning from the sophomore class are Kathleen Lundquist (Fort Worth, Texas/Nolan Catholic), Laura Roa (Bogota, Columbia/Sir Winston Churchill), Michelle Gun-Munro (Upper Sion Hill, St. Vincent/St. Vincent Girls School), and Lavinia Bendandi (Bologna, Italy/IMG Bolletierri Tennis Academy).
“We notice there is a different energy,” Coach McMindes said. “There is an eagerness, there is a hunger, and they have all been extremely disciplined in their practice time and workouts.”
Coach McMindes’ brother, Jacob McMindes, will also have additional duties this year. The younger McMindes has been the Tiger men’s assistant coach for the past two years, and comes on board to help lead the women’s squad.
He likes what he sees in the determination and drive of the Tiger women’s team.
“They have answered every challenge we put in front of them,” Assistant Coach McMindes said. “The players are planning to ‘right the ship’ and win conference this year, and go even farther. The newcomers have meshed with the team very well, and bring a lot to the table.”
Trinity will play its matches in new “digs” this season. The 14 dual matches – on nine dates - will take place at the newly renovated Butch Newman Tennis Center, and the Al G. Hill Jr. Tennis Stadium. Butch Newman, a longtime Tiger coach and former player, is Trinity’s Director of Tennis, and Al G. Hill Jr., who made the facilities possible with a challenge grant, was a teammate of Coach Newman’s in the 1960s.
Following the opener with St. Edward’s, the Tigers will play five straight home matches. Laredo Community College, ranked sixth nationally in the JUCO poll, comes to campus Feb. 11. Trinity will host Texas Lutheran, and the University of the Incarnate Word (Division II member) Feb. 12. On March 3, the Tigers take on San Antonio’s Our Lady of the Lake University (an NAIA team), and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Tigers travel to Claremont and Redlands, Calif., for five matches from March 8-12. Included in the trip are match-ups with seventh-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, No. 9 Pomona-Pitzer, 14th-ranked Washington University in St. Louis, No. 26 Vassar, and 28th-ranked Redlands.
Trinity visits Tyler, Texas, March 24, to play Whitman, and Tyler Junior College, the No. 1 JUCO team in the nation. Texas-Tyler hosts the Tigers March 25.
The final eight regular-season matches will be played in the friendly confines of Trinity University.
Williamette pays a visit to Trinity March 27, and the Tigers will host SCAC members Austin College, Southwestern, and Colorado College on March 31. Gustavus Adolphus, ranked 15th in the nation, meets the Tigers April 3. Trinity has an April 13 match-up with McMurry. The final two home matches are slated for April 14, against NAIA member Oklahoma Christian, and Division II competitor Central Oklahoma.
The SCAC Tournament will once again be held in North Little Rock, Ark., from April 27-29. The NCAA Regional, at a site to be determined, is on the calendar for May 11-13.
The NCAA Championships are scheduled for May 22-27, with Cary, N.C., serving as the host city.