PELLA—Following its best American Rivers conference finish since 2003 last season, the Central College women’s tennis team is an unproven but talented roster heading into 2022.
The Dutch finished tied for second in the league table in the fall of 2021, the team’s first second place finish in nearly 20 years. Five of his seven regular starters graduated, a quintet that played No. 1-5 singles in conference play.
“When you lose so many players, it’s a question of who is going to step in and do it,” the coach said. Ryun Ferrell said. “You don’t fill in the holes, it’s a completely different pair of shoes now. We’re a deep and talented formation and I think we could use a variety of players.”
Central returns 11 winners, including the No. 6 singles player for much of the fall, Brianna Lindstrom (junior, North Aurora, IL, West Aurora HS)and half of the pair of doubles No. 2, Jennifer Larson (sophomore, Johnston).
“Jennifer is one of the best athletes we have,” Ferrell said. “You can tell she’s put in some work over the summer and is ready to go. Brianna is one of our fittest players and has really upped her mental game.”
Alex Griggs (elder, Knoxville) and Jenna Hernandez (Junior, Slater, Ballard HS) are team captains and both have played in many college games during their careers. They were 6-5 in doubles last year.
“I would love to keep them together,” Ferrell said. “They can give us some stability in the doubles line-up and be a mainstay for other pairs. Alex is a stable player and Jenna has worked incredibly hard all summer and shown some good things early on.”
Alli Kreider (young, Norwalk) played five times in fifth place singles last spring and Ashlyn Brant (senior, Glidden, Carroll) played No. 6 singles for parts of the spring, winning his last six matches.
“Ashlynn is going to get the ball back and drive her opponents crazy,” Ferrell said. “Alli is hugely talented. If she can stay healthy, she can help us.”
Madie Holle (elder, Oskaloosa) picked up six singles wins over the past year and could see an increased role this year.
“She’s played exhibition matches as the seventh, eighth or ninth singles player for the past few years and she’s destroyed her opponents,” Ferrell said.
Abbie Den Adel (sophomore, Ankeny, Centennial HS), Kalina Schubert (sophomore, Newell, Newell-Fonda HS) and Paige Farrell (young, Chariton) are also back in the fold for the fall season. Becca Vala (sophomore, Omaha, Neb., Elkhorn HS) is another returning winner on the roster, but is focusing on volleyball in the fall.
Ferrell added five newcomers who are trying to make an impression to earn a spot in the roster.
Other than Griggs and Hernandez, no player has played competitive doubles more than three times. Always an area of focus for Ferrell, trying to find the right partnerships early is key this season.
“We start practicing with different random partners,” Ferrell said. “It removes my bias about who I think might work well together and allows it to develop more naturally. There are certain pairings that can happen that I might not necessarily have put in place. That process allows people to step up and showcase their talents. You really don’t know until you play someone with a different school on their shirt.”
Luther College has as many as three consecutive conference titles, but Ferrell again considers it a deep conference.
“Luther is going to be good, the coaches picked them to win again in the pre-season poll,” Ferrell said. “Coe has the best player in the league and Wartburg has a lot of talent coming back. Nebraska Wesleyan is a dark horse because they’ve lost a lot of games 5-4 and they haven’t lost anyone.”
Central travels to Monmouth College, Illinois on August 27 for a noon game to open the season.