Carl Leedy is unassuming and soft spoken. He is not what most people envision when the term, "card shark," is mentioned.
Yet here is Leedy, the Ashland University head tennis coach, on the eve of the 2012 women's tennis opener, shuffling the deck like an old hand on the Las Vegas strip. The Eagles begin the season this Friday, hosting Tiffin (Sept. 7, 3 p.m.). They host Ohio Dominican on Sunday (Sept. 9, 10 a.m.).
A year ago, the AU women's tennis team went 18-7, 9-3 in GLIAC play. Graduation has claimed several of the regulars from that 2011 lineup. That has forced Leedy to make some moves.
Senior Erika Sullivan (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights) is moving from second singles to No. 1 singles. Sophomore Zdenka Pozo (Cochabamba, Bolivia/Cochabamba Cooperative) is making the jump from No. 4 singles to second singles. Junior Kira Kotova (Moscow, Russia/#1535) is going from the fifth spot in the order to No. 3 singles.
The final three slots in singles belong to freshmen. That trio lists Martina Baca (Peru) at No. 4, Andrea Ruiz (Mexico City, Mexico/Instituto Godwin) at No. 5 and Daniela Alves (Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil/Notre Dame) at No. 6.
Sullivan is the owner of a 45-19 career record. She was 18-5 last season and has never won fewer than 12 matches in her career.
"Erika's our only senior," reminded Leedy, "and she's had three great years at No. 2. She's moving up to No.1 and she's very deserving. Our top two were very close in the past."
Pozo went 19-4 as a freshman.
"She's been a very strong competitor for us," emphasized Leedy.
Kotova has a career record of 39-15. She was 15-4 a year ago and 24-1 as a freshman.
"She'll give us a good No. 3," predicted Leedy. "We're really happy with our top three."
Leedy admits that at this point, there are questions surrounding the final three spots. All three of the newcomers are foreign students and are attempting to get adjusted to college tennis and college life far away from home. All of them have a lot on their plate and that's not just because they are getting their first exposure to AU's famous dining services.
"They're still adjusting," admitted Leedy. "That's one reason for where they are. Once they get adjusted, I could see two of them challenging some of our other players. It was the same thing with Zdenka last year. She was a clay court player and had to get used to a faster court and now she loves it. It's her favorite surface. They haven't shown what they can do yet."
AU plays eight home matches and all of those are in September. After this opening month the Eagles will not play at home again. The GLIAC has added two schools – Malone and Walsh – and both play women's schedule. That has adjusted the schedule. The Eagles will play three matches each weekend with the exception of this opening weekend when they play twice.
"It's going to be a grind," said Leedy. "We play every school in Michigan and every one of them is tough. I've seen Malone, the players they have and they'll be good. We play three a weekend for every weekend. But, there's no trip to the Upper Peninsula."