MU fall slate highlighted by veteran teams

MU fall slate highlighted by veteran teams

A large share of returning experience on both the 2013 Manchester University men's and women's teams has head coach Eric Christiansen enthusiastic about the upcoming campaigns.

"We're going to need the returners to show the way to the first-year players," Christiansen said. "I'm hoping that the upperclassmen and upperclasswomen will work well with the sophomores and freshmen to help create a successful season."

Beginning with the women, the Spartans look to improve on a top four finish in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference of a year ago.

"We've got a good situation (to reach some higher goals)," Christiansen said. "With our number one and two singles and number one doubles pairing and then the number five and six singles and number three doubles combination back, it's a matter of they know what I expect from them and vice versa."

Seniors Kara Gilley (Plymouth, Ind.), Brandy Leeper (Bremen, Ind.), Ashley McClintic (Wakarusa, Ind.), Abby Berry (Huntington, Ind.) and Jillian Bower (Galveston, Ind.), a starter two years ago and spring team member in 2013, made up all but two of the singles and two of the three doubles' teams last season. Gilley, a three-time all-HCAC selection, and Leeper, a two-time all-HCAC honorable mention honoree, will battle for the top two spots, according to Christiansen, with McClintic, looking to return after an injury sidelined her late last fall and throughout the spring, could aim for three or four in singles and the final two doubles' duos, and Berry and Bower will be in the mix for four, five or six singles and the final two doubles' spots.

Beyond that group, the Black and Gold have the sophomore trio of Megan Buckner (Muncie, Ind.), Morgan Wolf (Lafayette, Ind.) and Melinda Penrod (Penville, Ind.) to provide depth and competition for the middle singles and doubles spots. The Spartans will also have four freshmen coming in, according to Christiansen.

"With Kara and Brandy up front, I think our one and two singles and top doubles pairing is in good shape," he said. "However, we need to have the remainder of the seniors and sophomores try and step in and work hard towards the middle singles and final two doubles slots. I like what each of the sophomores did last year, especially in the spring, to push towards that.

"Competition will be strong in preseason practices," he added. "It's what we'll need to be better for another rugged schedule. The conference will be a battle every dual, and our non-conference matches will test us, too."

MU's men have a similar experienced make-up going into the fall. When the Spartans open practice in September, they will have their entire seven-person roster intact from 2012-13 and a group of five freshmen, according to their head coach.

"Even with everyone back, I still expect some competition," Christiansen said. "That is what we use the fall duals for. …. To see how things will shake out for the spring."

The Black and Gold have junior Kyle Lahman (North Manchester, Ind.), seniors Bobby Swaby (Farmersburg, Ind.) and Miro Arguijo III (Corpus Christi, Texas), junior Phil Truitt (Huntington, Ind.), sophomore Matt Buncich (Goshen, Ind.), junior Alex Winger (Warsaw, Ind.) and sophomore Ryan Hawkins (LaPorte, Ind.) returning. They played in that exact order in singles with Hawkins serving as a number three doubles partner from time-to-time last spring.

"Nothing can be taken for granted," Christiansen said. "We're coming off of one of the best spring finishes in a decade (placing seventh in the conference), but the guys want to improve on that. There will need to be some work done, and I expect that this fall with the freshmen coming in to push for spots."