By STEVE CHOICE
It’s time to break out the racquets and crack open a fresh canister of balls. After training all offseason, the Pima Community College men’s and women’s tennis teams will finally kick off their respective campaigns.
Women’s head coach Gretchen Schantz is feeling upbeat about this year’s squad as she begins her seventh year at the helm.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Schantz said. “This is definitely one of the strongest teams I’ve had. It may be the deepest we’ve ever been from top to bottom.”
Though All-ACCAC performer Tatum Rochin has moved on to Northern Arizona University, Pima’s cupboard is hardly bare.
Sophomores Helen Altieri and Kari Emery both garnered all-conference honors last year, and are back to anchor PCC’s lineup.
Schantz likes how her incoming freshmen are adapting to the step-up in play.
“They’re all doing really well so far,” she said. “We have a couple of kids from out of state, and they’re really enjoying their experiences.”
Schantz points to Eastern Arizona College as an early favorite to challenge for the conference title, along with her own squad.
“Eastern’s usually the favorite, and they will be again this year,” she said. “Last year we finally beat them.”
The Pima coach called the Texas Tournament to be held Feb. 15-17 in Plano, Texas, “the biggest challenge” the Aztecs have on their schedule. The tourney will feature many of the top junior college teams in the nation.
“Hopefully we can get a few wins for seeding at nationals,” Schantz said. “Our main goal this year is to do well at nationals.”
For the men, first-year head coach Nelson Payne will lead a “young squad” with high hopes.
“I think we’ve got a very good chance of finishing second in the conference,” Payne said. “We’ve got some real good players coming in.”
The Aztecs will also rely on sophomores Joe Owen and Dylan Vo, who were Pima’s top two players last season.
“Having both of those guys back is a huge plus for us,” Payne said.
Vo was named to the All-ACCAC second team in 2012.
Payne says reigning ACCAC champ Mesa Community College will be the team to beat again this year, and sees Scottsdale Community College and Pima battling for the next position.
“Whoever wins the first one between us and Scottsdale will have the upper hand,” he said.
PCC is scheduled to play the Fighting Artichokes on Feb. 28 in Scottsdale. The rematch will be at the Tucson Racquet Club on March 28.
Both the men’s and women’s squads were scheduled to face Western New Mexico University at the Tucson Racquet Club on Feb. 6. The paper went to press before results were available.
Feb. 9: Imperial Valley College (Calif.), Tucson Racquet Club, 10 a.m.
Feb. 9: Imperial Valley College (Calif.), Tucson Racquet Club, 2 p.m.
Feb. 15-17: @ Texas Tournament (Plano)