After two consecutive years of winning the NorPac championship and a top 50 national ranking, the Washington State women's tennis team is looking for respect.
"We have got to make people believers of this team," WSU head coach Cari Groce said. "Washington State is not a fluke team. We have to make people believe that we are here to stay, that we are a good program this year and the years to come."
With six returning players and four newcomers Groce believes her team will have one of the strongest lineups in recent Cougar history.
"I think we have got some good experience," Groce said. "We have six returning players and we have got four new faces. We have youth, with experience and the combination of the two will hopefully make this team strong from top to bottom."
This year's Cougar team will be headed by Andrea Reisz, a sophomore from Pecs, Hungary. Playing the No. 2 position last year, Reisz posted a 15-5 record and was named to the Pacific-10 North first team.
"Andrea is going to be an important key to our success," Groce said. "She is a great player and represents Washington State really well."
In addition to Reisz, Groce expects seniors Narelle Hall and Bindi Thomas as well as junior Tunde Nagy, who was named to the Pacific-10 North second team as a sophomore to compete for the top four singles positions.
Hall is currently tied for first on the WSU career singles win list with a three-year total of 60 singles victories.
"I would like to see Narelle finish her senior year not only on the all-conference team but possibly helping the team to the NCAA Regionals," Groce said.
Sophomore Helen Frankland and newcomers Melissa Pine, Carolina Ferrandez and Michelle Barron will round out the bottom half of the line up and provide valuable depth to this years Cougar squad.
The doubles teams look to be strong with Nagy and Reisz at #1 followed by the teams of Hall/Frankland and Thomas/ Pine.
Topping the list of team goals during the 1996-97 season include the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Regional tournament.
"Obviously to repeat as NorPac-10 Champions is one of our goals, but I think it is time for this team to be looking further ahead," Groce said. "We have got to make it to the NCAA regional tournament."
As always the Cougars will have another tough schedule. Besides competing in the Pac-10 where the conference has six teams ranked in the top 20 in the nation, the Cougars will also battle three regionally ranked teams and four nationally ranked teams.
"We have got an extremely strong schedule this year, but this team can certainly go out and compete at that level," Groce said. "Our schedule is going to dictate our level of play and that should be very, very high."
Groce feels that the Pac-10 North will again be very competitive.
"I think Washington and Oregon look to be very good this year. We might have won it the last two years but that does not mean it is a given," Groce said. "We have got to get out there and take care of business. Time will tell how this team will do."
Making people believe in this Cougar tennis team shouldn't be hard, its keeping them believers is what has this Cougar coach concerned.
"What our team has got to do is make them believers. If we can get people to believe in us, then and only then will we get our just due."