Mitch Riportella | Sports Reporter
The Butler women’s tennis team kicked its season off Saturday with a win over Robert Morris University. The Bulldogs swept the visiting Eagles 7-0.
Butler will later make its debut in the Big East Conference after one season in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Third-year coach Tayo Bailey will look to help the team improve on last year’s 4-17 record without the return of one of last year’s top players.
Senior Caroline Hedrick, last year’s team MVP, recently decided not to play on the team in order to focus on academics.
Hedrick was 15-12 last season, including 4-1 in the No. 1 spot.
The Bulldogs will be led by senior captains Stephanie McLoughlin and Angelina Qin. According to freshman Grace Hyde, McLoughlin has stepped up to fill the void left by Hedrick.
Hyde also said that McLoughlin has even run practices.
“Steph takes control of everything,” Hyde said. “She always takes initiative on everything. She plays a big role on this team.”
The young roster will feature five freshmen and two sophomores, but the lack of upperclassmen certainly does not mean a lack of talent for the Bulldogs.
Freshman Kailey Eaton, who won her Butler debut in the No. 2 singles spot, was a four-time All-State selection at Fishers High School in Indiana. Eaton is hopeful her transition to college tennis will go smoothly.
“It can be intimidating (playing in the No. 2 spot) because the girls are usually upperclassmen and more experienced, but I know I’ll improve quickly during the season, so I’m confident,” Eaton said.
Also picking up wins were Hyde and freshman Jocelyn Koester.
The team will travel to Eastern Michigan Friday and play again Saturday at Western Michigan.
The men’s tennis team is also making the switch to the Big East this season.
The Bulldogs will see seven of their eight players return to the squad this season. Coming off a 10-13 record, the men’s team looks toward the future with an older and more experienced group of players.
Coach Parker Ross is beginning his second season as head coach. The 2006 Butler graduate was the men’s assistant coach for two years before replacing long time coach Jason Suscha.
Freshman Alex Woldmoe said that despite Ross’ short tenure as a head coach, he understands his players.
“He’s young and played on the team (at Butler), so he knows how to connect with you on that player level,” Woldmoe said. “There are a lot of coaches who are still good that can’t connect as a player and a coach like he can.”
Key returnees to the lineup include Alex’s older brother, junior Austin Woldmoe, and junior Billy Weldon. Austin was a regular starter in the singles spot last year. He went 8-21 overall, and was also 15-16 while playing in the top doubles team with Weldon.
This year the Woldmoe brothers will play doubles together in either the first or second spot.
“It’s great playing with Austin,” Alex said. “It’s like playing with myself: I know where he’s going to be and he knows where I’m going to be.”
Weldon went 21-11 overall in singles last year and finished the season strong, going 7-3 in his last 10 matches.
The men’s season begins today at Ohio State, but the team’s first conference match is not until Mar. 8 at DePaul.