In the Horizon League, the women's tennis championship has resided at UIC for the past 13 years. The Bulldog women's tennis team is shooting to bring the trophy to Butler, and head coach Jason Suscha thinks the 2010 Bulldogs have what it takes to challenge the Flames.
"We are good on top of the lineup, we have depth and we have good doubles play," Butler head coach Jason Suscha said. "We can compete for the league championship."
The entire roster from last year's team that went 7-1 in the Horizon League returns. Two experienced seniors - Molly Casperson and Becky Jenkins - anchor the returning players.
Casperson has played in the top half of the BU lineup her whole career. She won 15 matches last year, including a 7-1 mark against league opponents. Jenkins fashioned a team-best 21-7 singles record last season, highlighted by a 12-2 mark at No. 4 singles.
"We are counting on Molly and Becky to lead us to the championship," Suscha said. "We are in a good position to have two seniors like them. They know how to win."
Junior Gabriella Bobrowski returns after missing the fall season due to studying abroad. Bobrowski finished 2009 playing at No. 1 singles and she responded to the challenge with a 5-2 record. She was 19-6 overall and appears to be a key to Butler's championship mission.
"Gabriella is our emotional leader. I want the other girls to feed off her energy and emotion," Suscha said. "She wants to win as badly as any player we've had."
Junior Natali Jaimes played most of the 2009 season at No. 1 singles. She saw little tournament action during the fall due to an injury but she should be ready to go for the season opener. Jaimes won 14 matches last season playing against top competition and according to Suscha, "is a dangerous player. If she plays to her potential, she could be considered for Horizon League Player of the Year (this spring)."
Sophomore Cam Thompson and freshman Brittany Farmer will enter the season as candidates to shore up a very solid bottom half of the singles lineup. Thompson played nearly all of last year at No. 6 singles and finished the season with 14 singles victories. "Cam is very strong and has added a lot of firepower to her game," Suscha said.
Farmer finished third in the state of Indiana as a high school senior and was nearly perfect in her first semester of collegiate tennis. She went 6-1 in the fall and has already displayed the ability to win matches against a variety of opponents. "Brittany has a unique style. She has the ability to control points from start to finish," Suscha said.
Suscha cited sophomore Ashley Breitenbach as another player who has been a key contributor. Breitenbach found a home in the doubles lineup as a freshman.
"Ashley really stepped up for us in doubles last year," the coach said.
As a testament to Butler's depth, the Bulldogs boast several more quality athletes on the roster. A trio of sophomores - Heather Hayward, Kahfii King and Kate Panawash - features athletic players who continue to improve. "They're a fun group to be around," Suscha said.
Senior Valerie Vinluan is a walk-on player who has "certainly earned her spot on the team by showing a great attitude," Suscha said. The coach added: "If you ask our girls, they couldn't imagine our team without Valerie."
Butler's 2010 schedule is very tough and challenging. According to Suscha, it's "as tough as we've had in a while." The Bulldogs will play current ranked teams DePaul, Indiana and Miami (Ohio). The Dogs open the season Sunday, Jan. 17 at IU. BU's home opener is Sunday, Jan. 31 against Illinois State.