After a fall season filled with numerous successful tournaments, members of the Valparaiso University women’s tennis team are glowing with anticipation for the first spring season under head coach Bob Modesto to commence.
After a fall that saw the team combine for a 47-33 singles record and a 26-14 doubles mark, there are plenty of reasons for optimism heading into this weekend’s dual matches at IUPUI and Butler.
“The fall season left me excited and fired up,” Modesto said. “It was a very productive fall and gave us something to build on during the spring. It gives us a lot of reason to be optimistic as we begin our spring season.”
No. 1 Singles
For Valpo women’s tennis this spring, it all starts with junior Claire Czerwonka (Kenosha, Wis. / Saint Joseph Catholic Academy), who will look to build on a 9-4 record during the fall campaign.
As only a junior, Claire has already cracked the Top 10 in program history in career doubles wins and needs only four more triumphs to do the same in singles. She figures to hold down the top spot in the singles lineup again this spring.
“We’re really excited about Claire and how well she did in the fall,” Modesto said. “Her work ethic has been terrific. She does the little extra things that you need to do to win.”
No. 2 Singles
It’s a family affair in the top portion of the Valpo lineup as Claire’s freshman sister Olivia Czerwonka (Kenosha, Wis. / Saint Joseph Catholic Academy) has nailed down the No. 2 position. She immediately turned heads with a strong fall season that included an 8-4 singles record, and enters her first spring slate with even higher expectations.
The younger Czerwonka’s signature win of the fall came on Sept. 14, when she topped defending Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Bozana Lojpur. The Valpo rookie topped the Bradley sophomore 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 at Chicago State’s Cougar Invitational. Lojpur was also a first-team all-conference performer at No. 2 singles a year ago.
“Our goal for Olivia is that she is a front runner for Freshman of the Year in the conference,” Modesto said. “I absolutely feel that goal is attainable for her. We’re looking for her to have an extremely successful spring.”
No. 3 Singles
Another freshman has cracked the top half of Valpo’s lineup as Amanda Tabanera (Valencia, Calif. / Valencia) has secured the No. 3 position. She tied for the team lead with nine singles wins during the fall. Her fall resume included a three-set win over a conference opponent from Bradley on Oct. 7, plus she qualified for the ITA Midwest Regional Qualifying Draw and earned a three-set victory over Oakland’s Nirva Patel in the opening round.
“Amanda continues to improve each day,” Modesto said. “She’s willing to do the little things you need to do to get better. She has tremendous upside to her game and has worked hard. She came back from winter break in good physical condition.”
No. 4 Singles
After contributing right away as a freshman with seven singles wins, Isabella Schoolcraft (Bargersville, Ind. / Center Grove) corralled five more victories this fall to jumpstart her sophomore season.
Schoolcraft, who will hold down the fort at No. 4 singles, has taken the steps necessary to turn a number of close losses as a freshman into victories as a sophomore. She lost third-set tiebreaks to Butler, UIC, Bethel, Carleton College, Western Michigan and Bradley while dropping traditional third sets to Dayton, UNI and Chicago State a year ago, leaving her with numerous strong outings to build on for 2020.
“I’m a huge fan of Isabella,” Modesto said. “She has a game that is just textbook. She’s doing all the right things. We’ve turned a corner with Isabella where we know what it’s going to take to win those close matches. I’m really optimistic for her opportunities at our No. 4 position.”
No. 5 Singles
Freshman Demi Jhaveri (Westlake, Ohio / Westlake) has earned the No. 5 position in the Valpo lineup thanks in part to a 9-4 performance during the fall. She enters the spring tied atop the team leaderboard for singles wins with Claire Czerwonka and Tabanera.
“Demi has worked diligently over the winter break and has performed very well so far in spring practices,” Modesto said. “I know she’s looking forward to this weekend in Indianapolis to get off to a good start that she can build on for the rest of the spring. She has the ability to win every match at the five position.”
No. 6 Singles
As the squad’s lone senior, Dao Sysouvanh (Sun Prairie, Wis. / Sun Prairie) provides a veteran presence on a young roster. She and Claire Czerwonka share team captain duties. She has 26 career singles wins including five this fall.
“We’re relying on her experience the last few years of playing at a higher position to translate well to the six position,” Modesto said. “We’re fortunate to be in a position where our lineup has a bit more depth this season, and I’m confident Dao can build on her experience at the No. 3 position and translate that to the No. 6 spot.”
Sophomore Lia Boucek (Grayslake, Ill. / Grayslake Central) is the newest member of the program, having joined the roster during the fall campaign.
Valpo will keep its doubles teams from the fall campaign intact to start the spring, hoping to build on the success those pairings produced in the fall with increased familiarity with one another as the season progresses.
Schoolcraft and Claire will team up at No. 1 doubles after garnering eight wins together during the fall, while Olivia-Jhaveri and Tabanera-Sysouvanh combos will fill the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.
“I believe there are a lot of advantages to keeping partners together so we have that consistency,” Modesto said. “Our teams are the same that we had throughout the fall, and we’re confident that can make us a competitive team in doubles during our dual matches.”