By STEVE CHOICE
The Pima Community College women’s tennis team won’t need an atlas or a GPS device to get to this year’s NJCAA national tournament venue.
The 11th-ranked Aztecs will enjoy home-court advantage when the best in the nation throw down on May 5-10 at the Reffkin Tennis Center. The facility is located at the corner of Alvernon Way and Broadway Boulevard.
It’s the third time in the last four years the tourney has been staged in Tucson. Head coach Gretchen Schantz sees pros and cons for the Aztecs playing in their own backyard.
“The big advantage of being at home is that we get all the support,” she said. “A disadvantage can be that the players still have their basic life distractions going on around them. On the road, it’s just us together.
“It can be hard to juggle sometimes, but that’s what being a student-athlete is all about.”
No. 1 singles player Helen Altieri is looking forward to playing in front of the local crowd.
“It’s really cool, because we’ll have a lot of support,” the sophomore from Yuma said. “And we don’t have to deal with the stresses of traveling, so that’s a big plus.”
Schantz believes her squad can make history this year.
“My goal for this tournament is to finish in the top 10,” she said. “That would be our best finish ever as a Division I program, so that’s what I’m hoping for my team.
“We have the highest ranking we’ve had going in to it since I’ve been coach, so it’s nice to feel like we have a good chance to finish a little higher than we have in the past.”
Schantz says getting favorable draws from the tournament seeding committee would make PCC’s path smoother.
The tournament is similar to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tourney in that higher seeds initially face less demanding competition, which makes scoring team points easier for higher-seeded players.
Schantz says one player who should get a good draw is freshman Amy Beeston, who won the No. 4 singles championship at regionals on April 15-16. Beeston also teamed with fellow freshman Torie Wake to take the No. 2 doubles crown.
“I just want to play the best I can,” Beeston said. “I’m not really nervous or anything. I’m really excited to be going to nationals for the first time.”
Altieri echoed her teammate’s sentiments.
“It never helps to worry,” she said. “I never did. This may be my last experience playing for a team at the collegiate level, so I just want to go out there and know I had a good time.”
For Pima’s match times and opponents, visit here.