Fresno Stateâ€™s veteran womenâ€™s tennis team returns this fall seeking to solidify itâ€™s growing reputation as the advancing team thatâ€™s hard to beat.
Last season, the Bulldogs ended nationally ranked at No. 14.
The goal this season is to take last season’s team to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Elite 8, coach Simon Thibodeau said.
â€œWith the same team, weâ€™ll try to improve and try to be a top ten team this year,â€ Thibodeau said. â€œEverything is possible.â€
Leading the Bulldogs is junior Melanie Gloria, who begins the season ranked third in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Associationâ€™s preseason rankings.
Gloria will not be participating in the Bulldog Classic, a tournament with players ranked mostly in the range of 40 to 100.
Gloria currently has an injured wrist but should be ready to play in the 2007 All-American Tournament.
The tournament, which she lost in the final round last year, begins on October 4 in Los Angeles.
Thibodeau said Melanieâ€™s biggest strength is her concentration.
She always finishes strong and plays better when the situation is tight; times when other people tend to choke or get nervous, he said.
The other ranked Bulldog players are sophomores Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Putekhova, who are ranked No. 43 and No. 47, respectively.
Thibodeau said the two have opposite personalities as competitors.
Kucerkova, he said, is solid and dependable while Putekhova as very explosive, very feisty, and very competitive with unlimited potential.
Another big strength for the Bulldogs are the doubles teams.
Gloria and partner Tinesta Rowe are ranked No. 11 in the nation, while Kucerkova and Putekhova are ranked No. 18.
Rowe, a junior from Jamaica, is another player to watch out for.
â€œShe has really good potential,â€ Thibodeau said. â€œSheâ€™s 6-feet tall with Venus Williamsâ€™ frame.â€
Thibodeau hopes to see some of the other players improve their game and win against top teams.
â€œTheyâ€™re really solid when we play ranked teams,â€ he said, â€œbut when we play top teams, I think they need to step up and help out the top three that kind of carry the team on their shoulders.â€
The season begins with the Bulldog Classic today which continues through Sunday at the Wathen Tennis Center.
The â€™Dogs then go on the road until January when they host Nevada.
While on the road, the Bulldogs will compete in the California Invitational, the St. Mary’s Invitational and the Palm Springs Invitational.
Did you know…
Facts about Women’s Tennis
â€¢ The team grade point average last semester was 3.6 â€” the highest GPA for any sport at Fresno State.
â€¢ The season extends from September until the WAC Championships in April
â€¢ The 2007-2008 team includes all but two members from the 2006-2007 team