Women's Tennis Media Day

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Feb. 13, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head Coach Dawna Denny and players Chelsea Utting and Devan McCluskey spoke with media at Penn State's Spring Sports Media Day yesterday.

Q: How's the season gone so far?

Denny: It's going well, we're definitely positive. I still think we've got a lot of things to work on. The tests keep getting a little bit harder as our season goes. We've got to make some improvements and be aware of where we need to make those changes and adjust accordingly. Sometimes that's tough if you're coming off a win to see, but we just had a meeting this morning so I've have a list.

Q: How excited are you with your young roster?

Denny: I think our freshmen have been really great. Devan's kind of leading the pack there. She's been solid at her position and really stepped in and made a huge impact for us, in doubles as well. So it's really exciting for us, the future's very bright. We want to keep moving in that direction and keep up with that tradition. Some of the inexperience has hurt us a little bit here and there, but I feel like everyone's been really receptive and we're just growing mentally with our game as well as physically. And the fall is a great test and we try to prepare the kids as much as possible for the spring season and they're just really receptive. Everybody's on board which has been very nice and the freshman are showing some of their maturities as well in how they want to improve their game. It's been a great group and we've got Chelsea and some of the older girls kind of showing the younger ones the ropes. So it's been really nice this year, so I'm pleased.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what it's like playing in the No. 1 spot?

 

 

Utting: This was my first match at No. 1, usually I'm playing at No. 2 and then me and Petra play in No. 1 doubles. As long as the team wins, I'll play No. 6, it doesn't matter to me. What Coach was saying about having a younger team, it is really exciting to be able to look down and feel confident with the freshman that we have knowing this is their first time around. I think they've handled it really well and they're really competing. I love having the little ones around. This is my first year with freshman because I was the only freshman coming in at my first school and last year we didn't have any freshman because me and Nina transferred in so it's kind of fun having new ones around to show the ropes.

Q: Do you approach playing in the No. 1 slot any differently at all, or is it just playing tennis?

Utting: It's just a match, another chance to get a W. Take it as it comes, and the thing is especially with our team playing at such a high level, one through six every match is going to be good, it's not much of a difference in level of play, it's just a number.

Q: As a freshman in the No. 3 spot in the lineup playing in a lot of important matches, has this fazed you at all?

McCluskey: I don't know. It doesn't faze me as much. As a freshman I can go in and just play because I don't have anything to lose, but at the same thing I've got everything to lose because I don't want to let my team down, I want to win at [No.] 3 for my team more than anything. So it fazes me a little bit, this weekend I had some jitters but other than that I just like competing. I like competing for someone other than myself, as odd as that is. I like competing for a team that is why I love college tennis and why I chose to play college tennis.

Q: How have you found Penn State so far?

McCluskey: I love Penn State. I didn't think I would be that student who was all about their school and going crazy about their school, but I really am about Penn State, I love it. I love the academics, I love the campus, I love my team. It's hard being a freshman and adjusting but I just love this school and each day I wake up and say I love Penn State and I love coming to Penn State so I'm very happy.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Big Ten Conference this season?

Denny: It's tough. We sent three teams to the National Indoor, it was Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern and they're all doing really well. Ranking-wise we topped out at [No.] 46 last year and were [No.] 48 right now, for us we're really making strides forward but there are five teams or so in front of us in the rankings, it's getting tougher. It keeps getting better and I like that, I like the challenge. It's going to be tough and we have to be ready for these teams coming up. Ohio State's in about two and a half weeks, they're our travel partner so we play them a little bit earlier, but everybody is good. We definitely don't want to take anyone lightly, and they're all doing very well.

Q: How do you approach this part of the season with dual matches to the fall season with all the tournaments?

Denny: That's a good question, that's kind of a loaded question. In the fall, obviously with the freshman it was different than maybe how we dealt with the upperclassmen, but we're all about development. So the bottom line if I could blank it and say one thing it's really important for us to develop our game, play tough competition, go to some of those tournaments like how we went to Texas, that was a good challenge for us. We sent some kids to All-American [Championships], so being able to play and be in that atmosphere is really important to us and it is important for us to develop our game. In the spring it is obviously a lot busier with travel and whatnot. And with the freshman just kind of getting used to the team concept coming from an individual sport where a lot of them haven't had the opportunity to play for a team is different. So just trying to get them to buy into that team concept is really important for us as well.

Q: What are your feelings on the expansion of the Big Ten Conference?

Denny: I'm a little mixed. I'm really excited about the Big Ten expanding; I think that it's great. We're having conference calls right now about whether we are going to play everybody in the conference. There are a lot of valid points on both sides whether we play an abbreviated schedule or a full schedule with everybody. With all of these super-conferences it sounds like that's becoming more of a trend, where the conferences are requiring their teams to play every single team in the league. It sounds like we might be moving in that direction, I'm not real sure. We still have some debating to do upon that but it's always nice to have a school that's closer that we're playing, maybe create that rivalry. The closest Big Ten match for us is Ohio State, so I think that part is very positive. We're excited about it, I think change can be good and we haven't played those teams before so it's a new challenge.

Q: What's the one thing you're looking forward to most this spring?

Utting: For me I just love Big Ten play because it gives you a chance to compete against the best schools in the country, plus they're in-conference so you get that Big Ten pride. That's just my favorite; I can't wait for the Ohio State match.

Q: What's the one thing you're looking forward to most this spring?

McCluskey: All the upperclassmen have told me the conference season is just the best part of the year for us. I guess I'm excited to see what it entails and get to have that first experience. We're already really rowdy and it's not even Big Ten season so I'm kind of excited to see that get even better with Big Ten's.

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