For the third straight season, Ashland University's women's tennis team is headed to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
The Eagles will begin play on Friday (Oct. 25) and will play through Sunday (Oct. 27).
Heading into the GLIAC Championships, confidence is at an all-time high for Ashland.
"I would say right now our confidence with our ability and the strength of our team is the highest it's ever been," said Ashland head women's tennis coach Lexi Bolesky.
Gauging by how the season has gone so far, the team should have plenty to be confident about. The Eagles matched their entire season win total from the past two years in just the fall alone at eight. Much of the success so far this season can be attributed to consistent, veteran leadership throughout the lineup.
"We didn't graduate any starters last year," said Ashland assistant tennis coach Christian Hamilton. "We came in with two new freshmen and seven or eight girls that made an impact last year and are continuing to do so. This group has been GLIAC tested in the past, so they know what to expect."
"By returning 10 girls and only bringing in two, the returners knew the standards, and knew what was expected of them due to the strength of the conference and where we needed to be," said Bolesky. "That culture that those 10 brought back of wanting to do their best and win for each other has had a huge impact."
The strength of the GLIAC is sure to provide a tough test at the Championships for Ashland. Wayne State at the top of the conference (9-0), Grand Valley next (8-1), Michigan Tech (7-2), and Ferris State (6-3) provide plenty of power on the top end of the GLIAC for Ashland to compete with.
"I think Bri (Brdicka) said it best after our Purdue Northwest match, when we have a mindset of having no fear of losing, that's really when we play our best," said Bolesky. "I think that is what our culture has become is, we have a winning mindset and we don't fear anybody now.
"Tech is the only school that 7-0'd us, but we were competitive on many courts. We haven't played anybody as a team this year that we can't compete with."
One of the keys to success at the GLIAC Championships for Ashland will be continued good doubles play to gain an early point advantage in matches. The Eagles have only lost one match when they won in doubles, a trend they will hope to continue this weekend.
"Everyone has been very open-minded in us moving the lineup around to get the best possible lineup," said Bolesky.
"Their ability to execute a game plan has been very important," said Hamilton. "Some days you'll be playing with one person who you played five matches with, and another day you'll be playing with someone else who you've only played with in practice and you might not even be playing the same half that you're usually playing on."
Ashland will open its GLIAC Championships against No. 2-seeded Grand Valley State on Friday (Oct. 25) at 6:45 p.m. in Midland, Mich.