In many college sports, having five newcomers in one season isn’t anything crazy. With larger rosters in sports such as football and soccer, many players come and go each year.
But for women’s college tennis, the team is only eight players deep. And for IU this season, newcomers make up more than half of the roster.
The oldest of the newcomers is graduate transfer Annabelle Andrinopoulos, who spent her first four seasons at the University of Colorado. Andrinopoulos played most of her senior season at the University of Colorado in the No. 3 singles spot but has been the No. 2 singles player for IU early on this season.
As for the other four additions to the IU roster, all of them are true freshman. Those four are Mila Mejic, Rose Hu, Alexandra Staiculescu and Lexi Kubas.
With so many new players on the roster, the Hoosiers have done a lot of lineup tweaking, especially when it comes to finding the right doubles pairings.
“It has been honestly pretty tough,” senior Caitlin Bernard said. “Every match we get better, so I feel like it's just more and more matches we need.”
Bernard has been with IU longer than any player on the roster and is IU’s anchor at the No. 1 singles spot, putting her in a natural leadership position. During singles matches, even when her match is going on, Bernard’s cheers on her teammates from her No. 1 singles court.
Along with Bernard, senior Michelle McKamey and junior Jelly Bozovic bring multiple years of experience in playing for IU. McKamey has spent the season in IU's No. 5 singles spot, whereas Bozovic has been in the No. 4.
So far this season, IU has tried out various strategies with doubles, including pairings with two returning players or pairings with two freshmen. However, in its last few matches, IU has been more consistent with its pairings. Andrinopoulos and Bozovic have been continuously paired, as have Bernard and Staiculescu.
Head coach Ramiro Azcui understands the challenges that come with coaching a younger and more inexperienced team. For him and his coaches, he said it’s been about keeping it simple and making things as easy as possible for his team.
“It’s so much easier when you have an older team,” Azcui said. “So for the coaches it’s been a little bit harder. We need to kind of slow ourselves down to make sure that we take the time to explain why the system is going to work and why our culture is the way it is.”
As the season continues to roll along, Azcui has been happy with the way his new-look team is playing.
“The players are buying into it for sure,” Azcui said. “We still have a lot of learning to do. Every match that we play, we’re learning a lot about ourselves. It’s been challenging, but at the same time it’s been fun.
Now at 6-4 on the season, IU hopes its build-up of matches will keep pushing its team full of new players ahead. Only two nonconference games remain before the Hoosiers open Big Ten play.
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