By ZACH ARMENTA
The 2013 tennis season for the men’s and women’s team of Pima Community College was spectacular and this season is shaping up to be another great one.
The women’s team, led by Coach Gretchen Schantz, finished second at the NJCAA Region 1 Championships with a 13-4 season in 2013. In addition, Schantz was awarded the Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s JUCO Women’s Tennis National Coach of the Year award.
The team has practiced since August and has participated in fundraisers and jamborees to get in as much playing time as possible. The team features three returning players and five new players.
Returning player Amy Beeston played No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles last year and took first place at regionals in both singles and doubles. She will likely play No. 1 singles and doubles and hopes to make nationals in both.
Beeston credits Schantz for making her a better player. “She’s incredible,” Beeston said. “I’ve gained confidence, she’s patient and knows what she’s doing.”
Newcomer Cassidy Mcwhorter is fresh out of high school, where she had a fourth-place finish at state in singles. She said she expects to have a “good, fun year and to play well.”
Schantz expects Pima to compete this season with Eastern Arizona College for the top spot.
“Every year I’m learning how to be a better coach and help student athletes,” she said. “I enjoy working with kids.”
The men’s tennis team is also coming off a great 2013 season but their season was more hectic. Lacking a head coach at the start, players continued to practice and play matches along with keeping grades up.
Head coach Brian Ramirez will coach his first full season this year. He stepped up as the coach last March and was very impressed with the team, which missed out on nationals by just three points.
The squad is facing some roster uncertainties. There are just two returning players, one with playing experience. Of four new players, two are waiting to hear if they can play.
Top returner is Brian Soto, who played No. 5 singles and No. 2 doubles and was awarded second all conference last season. He will be looking to play No. 1 or 2 singles and No. 1 doubles.
“It will be more of a challenge going from the bottom of the ladder to the top, and you never know who is returning from the other schools,” he said.
Top newcomer will be Richie Foitik, who was offered a spot on the team coming out of high school.
Foitik was previously ranked No. 1 in the Southwest region in the United States Tennis Association in the U12’s and U14’s in singles and doubles, and also cracked the top 15 in U16’s and was top 300 nationally.
He will be looking to play No. 1, or 2 singles and No. 1 doubles.
This year he anticipates taking his game to the next level. “I hope to improve and be more competitive,” he said.
Ramirez puts a big emphasis on the student aspect and makes his expectations clear.
“In class, taking care of grades, on time. They made a commitment to the team, act appropriately, and help the players mature if needed,” he said.