K-State tennis team presented with new challenges

K-State's Florentine Dekkers hits the ball back to the Memphis Tigers during their match on Febuary 11. The match was held at Body First Wellness Center. (Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State tennis opened the spring season with a very different roster construction than in previous years. Last season’s team consisted of eight members, five of which were seniors, who earned a 10-13 record and a Big 12 Tournament appearance. Now, the team has six members: three returning players and three freshmen. 

Besides an inexperienced roster, the team will not have substitutes for tournaments, as every tournament requires six players. These circumstances create a task for the veteran players to help lead the team, starting with six-year senior Rosanna Maffei.

“This is my sixth year so I kind of feel like the leader of the team, especially because they are much younger than me,” Maffei said. “That gives me kind of an advantage because I’ve already been through things that they are going through.”

Maffei stands as an important presence to a young roster as she enters a new season without her former senior teammates. 

Florentine Dekkers, returning sophomore, entered K-State among many experienced players. She now looks to have a larger role on the team as the third oldest member.

“It feels weird because it’s only my second year,” Dekkers said. “Me, Rosana and Manami [Ukita] are the older ones of the group … but I feel like we’re all doing pretty well. We learn from each other.”

The leaders of the team have a unique way to relate to their freshmen teammates — everyone on the roster is an international student. 

“We have different backgrounds from different countries, which makes a cultural difference,” Maffei said. “But I feel like being all international can help.”

Though each player comes from a different background and culture, each shares the similar experience of moving away from their home country.

“The biggest thing is, of course, you’re moving from Europe to the states so you don’t know anything,” Dekkers said. “Everything is new for you. So it’s already a big thing to move across the country.”

The team began their year in Florida for non-conference tournament play, defeating Florida Atlantic 4-2 after suffering a sweep to North Florida. As the team continues to mold together at the start of the season, there is one main goal for every player on the team: qualifying for the Big 12 Tournament and taking home the trophy.

“[I] For sure want to make the NCAA [Tournament] with the team. I think we’re putting enough effort [into] having good energy right now,” Dekkers said. “So I hope the hard work definitely pays off this season. I feel like we can do it even though we’re [a] smaller team.”