The women’s tennis team will kick off their 39th tennis season today at the new Mike Goss Stadium with the K-State Tennis Invitational tournament. The tournament, lasting through Sunday, is the first fall event that the women’s tennis team will host since Sept. 20-21, 1997.
"Maybe we should be afraid of the other teams, but we’re not," said head coach Steve Bietau. "We’re mostly excited to play on the new courts. They are a great surface, and the seating is a huge deal. Fans sitting on elevated seating is a real treat."
The new Mike Goss Stadium, dedicated Sept. 7, is located at the new outdoor facility for the Chester E. Peters K-State Recreational Center and was part of a $3 million renovation of the oudoor facilities through the collaborative agreement between K-State Athletics, the Student Governing Association and the Rec Complex. It features six outdoor purple courts, divided by powercats, new steel benches with "K-State" welded into the back, an outdoor lighting system and enough metal bleachers to accommodate up to 400 fans.
"We are so lucky to play at the facility," said returning junior Amina St. Hill. "This means so much to my team that K-State cares so much."
Being a senior brings a lot of responsibility, especially when you are Petra Niedermayerova, the only senior on the team. Niedermayerova, of Brno, Czech Republic, said that being a senior is her last time to put it all on the line, and is incentive to be her best self on the court.
"She is a good player, a strong inividual. There is no one better to lead the team than Petra," Bietau said of his No. 12 nationally ranked player.
For her K-State career, Niedermayerova holds a school record for singles wins with an 80-33 (.708) mark. Her overall singles winning percentage of .708 ranks second in school history. Coming into this season, Neidermayerova holds a doubles record of 60-40 (.600) and needs 14 more doubles victories this season to take over the school record for doubles wins in a career.
A unique thing about this team is that there are six new players this year, and all of them are freshman: Iva Bago, Liv Cirnu, Palma Juhasz, Tegan Louw, Riley Nizzi and Maria Panaite.
"It is my first time to play with new freshman," St. Hill said. "I am very excited for it."
The permanent doubles teams have not been decided by Bietau yet. Bietau said that there will be no evaluation of the teams upcoming season until they have played this invitational.
"It is a long season that is just getting started," Bietau said. "It is a different feeling having six freshman. They are new and learning, and we are all working on getting on the same page."
Of the eight players on the team, seven are international. St. Hill said that while being away from home is difficult, "you build up a family with the team. The team is my family."
Previous professional tennis player Andre Agassi described tennis as, "a lonely sport, probably the most lonely. You are out there with no team [playing singles], no coach and no place to hide." According to St. Hill’s description of her time on the court, it would appear Agassi’s account is accurate.
"[It's just] me, the oponent and the ball," St. Hill said. "I can not see the audience, I block everything out. I am in my own world and everything else is nonexistent."
What isn’t nonexistent is the fierce competition the team faces in it’s upcoming matches. Whether it is in the invitational, Omaha, UMKC, or Wichita, Neidermayerova said that some teams are more challenging, but it is just about playing their best for K-State and keeping a positive attitude for the season.