by Tom Utescher
Relatively short-staffed compared to previous women’s tennis squads at Chestnut Hill College, the Griffins are still enjoying a successful fall campaign.
There are only six full-time players on the team at present, and since standard collegiate matches consist of three doubles matches followed by six singles bouts, each CHC player has to double up in every match. Playing both singles and doubles on a given day is not uncommon in the college ranks, but most teams have at least a little bit of wiggle room in terms of personnel.
Nevertheless, in mid-October the Griffins were 6-2 overall against a strong slate of opponents, and 5-1 within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, where they were the runner-up team last year. One of their most recent conquests was an 8-1 win over a much larger school, West Chester University.
Chestnut Hill suffered a significant graduation loss from last year’s roster with the departure of Kelly Dennis, a four-year fixture for the franchise who played in the number two spot for much of her career. Several of last year’s underclassmen have not returned this fall, leaving eighth-year head coach Albert Stroble with half-a-dozen athletes.
“Ideally, you like to have competition within the squad for players to be able to play in the matches,” Stroble explained, “and injuries are something you try not to think about.”
Roxborough native Alexis Puhl, a former team member, is now a senior captain on the CHC lacrosse team, but if the racquet squad desperately needs a body, she can take a break from lacrosse fall-ball to fill in.
“We have a good core group of players and they’re all working hard,” Stroble said. “We have Charlotte Dawson [senior] and Iman Williams-Mulesa [junior] back to play one and two. Axé Owens [junior] has really picked it up after playing number six last year; early in the season she and Morgan Oechsle [senior] were going back and forth for number three.”
Oechsle has settled in at the three spot and Owens at number four, with junior Hayley Craskey at number five and freshman Hannah Hills at six.
“Hayley was a good high school player who didn’t get as much of a chance to play for us before this year, and she’s doing well now as an everyday player,” Stroble noted. “Hannah is one of the most athletic girls on the team, and she just needs more experience at this level.”
The Griffins’ lone conference loss came against Goldey Beacom College (Wilmington, Del.), a club which already had an international flavor to its roster, and has now added a new number one from Spain. After finishing up the regular season against defending CACC champ Concordia College (Bronxville, N.Y.), Chestnut Hill will once again host the conference tournament during the final weekend of October.
“The talent level across the region continues to get better every year,” Stroble pointed out.
For one example, look no farther than Philadelphia University, a team that lost to CHC 9-0 last year, but succumbed in a closer match this fall, 6-3. The Lady Rams have added a new number one, two, and four player to their line-up, including athletes from Brazil and Russia.
Asked about how his squad is preparing for the conference tournament, Stroble responded, “The thing I’ve been stressing all along is the effort level and the conditioning. I wouldn’t say that we have any real power players; our success is based on consistency and stamina. We need to have the mentality that we’re going to run down every ball, and be fit enough to keep doing that.”