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Feb. 10, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Chris Cagle, Interim head coach
Q: How has the team progressed so far on this season and what do you hope to see moving forward?
A: In my mind our season is really in three parts. The first third, that section is the non-conference part of the schedule and kind of seeing where we’re at. Me being the interim coach here it gives me a chance to get to know their games, see where they’re at, see the things I can implement and help them develop with. The second third would be are spring break portion and the third part will be the Big Ten part of our schedule. Right now you look at our four losses, all four of those teams are ranked and this is the way it goes in college tennis. Coach [Jeff] Zinn and I talked about this a lot when I was on his staff; college tennis is about playing under pressure. Those four losses have been a lot closer than the scores show, so it’s a valuable part of our season that we can see where we’re at and the things we need to work on and it will help us get better as we go along. I’ve been happy with where we’re heading and working hard in practice and that’s about all I can ask.
Q: What have been some of the things you’ve learned during this first part of the season?
A: One, I’ve learned that we have great senior leadership. The coaching staff, Coach [Mike] Fenwick, myself, Coach [Dawna] Denny Wine before us, I think they laid a good foundation of what Penn State women’s tennis was going to be about. We support each other, we work hard everyday, we train hard, we have expectations, so that part has been really nice to see where we’re at in that respect. We’ve had some opportunities for some younger players to get in the lineup so it’s been really nice to see where they’re at, the good and the bad When you have a lot of freshman playing they are going to get better in a hurry, but they have some things that they have to improve. I’ll give you an example from this weekend’s matches. Taylor Shukow, you could almost see her getting better from Saturday to Sunday, and that’s kind of neat as a coach. It didn’t necessarily translate to wins for us this weekend but it will down the road.
Q: As the season progresses getting into conference play where do you want to see the team progress to from there?
A: I want to see us win the doubles point. Coach Zinn talked about that before, I think the stat was somewhere like if you win the doubles point you win 70% of the matches or better, so that’s going to be important. We’ve tweaked our doubles lineup a little bit trying to get it right, so I want to see our doubles get better. As an overall team I want us to continue to get tougher each day. That word tough encompasses a lot of things, that was one of our focuses for this weekend whether it means making more balls or being mentally tougher, there are just a number of things, but those would be two areas that I’m looking to see us progress in.
Q: How challenging is it to find that right combinations for doubles as the season progresses?
A: Honestly I think it is one of the biggest challenges as a coach. It’s one of the areas that you can have the biggest impact. One of my philosophies is, when you look at sports, the more players you put on a court or a field, the more opportunities the coach has to impact the outcome. So obviously with doubles having two players there instead of singles with one there is a lot more coordination between partners or chemistry or set patterns that you might run in doubles so finding that right fit in doubles is huge. One of my coaching philosophies is that in the fall is a great time to experiment with doubles teams. Coming in midseason and not necessarily having that luxury of the fall that is one reason that you’ve seen us shift our lineup some early in the season so that we do the parings just as we want them when we get into the meat of the schedule.
How do you prepare young players like that for a Big Ten dual on the road or in a tough environment? (Follow up after Bedard and Utting’s remarks to same question)
A: I would add that these two seniors and Carmen Sandor our third senior, there were times this weekend when I would go to coach them in doubles and if you noticed our pairings we had an upperclassman and a newer player together in doubles and I would go to coach them in between points and changeovers and our seniors would already be talking to our newer players and I wouldn’t have to do as much and as a coach that’s a big thing to have that senior leadership.
Marie-Frederique Bedard, Senior
Q: What have you learned about the team so far?
A: It’s pretty much a new team this year. As Coach mentioned earlier we have five freshmen now in the lineup and two that just came in January. It’s definitely a learning process. Each and every girl that came in this program are hard workers and have the motivation to make this a better program so I totally believe in them and all the past players too. We have great work ethic and we’re all there for one thing, we want to get better every single day on the tennis court and off the tennis court. So I think we’re able to achieve this and we definitely have a long road to go but I think it’s looking great.
How do you prepare young players like that for a Big Ten dual on the road or in a tough environment?
A: It’s a day-to-day thing, last weekend we traveled and it was already the second weekend for traveling for the younger girls and you could see such an improvement from them already. They know what to do, they know where to be at, they know what is to be expected of them and they make the best of that so I can already see a huge learning curve already and I’m excited for Tampa and I’m excited for Big Ten play because I know they’re going to step it up. They’re tennis players, they’ve learned all their life to perform under pressure by themselves so I can only see them doing even better with a team behind their back.
Chelsea Utting, Senior
Q: What have you learned about the team so far?
A: I agree with Marie. Like she said we have five freshmen, five sophomores and no juniors so I think the younger girls are ready to step up and they want to step up and as seniors working so hard over the past couple years and leaving the program it’s nice to see that the girls want to step up and take the reins and they’re ready to keep up what Penn State is all about, a hard work ethic and achieving all of our goals, so it’s really nice to see.
Q: How do you prepare young players like that for a Big Ten dual on the road or in a tough environment?
A: It’s hard to explain what a dual match is all about, like the 3-3 and someone trying to clinch a match, it’s hard to explain it just in words but when they see it and are a part of it, you can’t be in that and not want to be in it, it takes over you. I think as the road goes on and we start Big Ten play and we get to spring break where we play big teams down in Tampa it’s going to help the younger girls really see what it’s all about and want to be a part of it.