The Elon University women’s tennis team may not look experienced just by glancing at its roster.
There’s just one senior and one junior.
But five vital sophomores return, and the Phoenix figures to be in the top tier of Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) teams once again.
Last year, in its inaugural campaign in the league, Elon secured the No. 3 seed in the CAA Tournament and advanced to the semifinals before falling to No. 2 seed College of Charleston, 4-1.
While Barbora Lazarova, a key player on that team, is gone, the Phoenix returns its five other singles starters — four of those being sophomores.
Last year, freshmen accounted for 48 of Elon’s 62 singles victories.
Kirsten Ward and Olivia Lucas, Elon’s No. 1 and No. 2 players from a year ago, are set up for a run at CAA Player of the Year nods.
Sophomores Erica Braschi and Kamilla Beisenova and senior Taylor Casey also return to the lineup for the Phoenix.
“They’re one of the hardest-working teams I’ve coached since I’ve been here,” said head coach Elizabeth Anderson.
The frustrating part about the CAA not having a regular season schedule is the fact that there isn’t a concrete way to measure one’s team against the rest of the league.
Elon plays six of the other seven CAA teams — all besides Drexel University — so there’s some indication, but not much, especially with the games sprinkled throughout the year.
This makes it difficult to gauge how the team is doing in relation to the league, considering each team might be playing different levels of competition.
Regardless, Elon should be in good shape. The Phoenix plays four Atlantic Coast Conference teams, including three of the first four matches of the year.
After playing four straight CAA teams in late March and early April, Elon finishes its regular season against East Carolina University, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina Upstate. Those last two should be sure-fire wins entering the CAA Tournament, when Elon needs to be playing its best.
“There’s a lot of little goals that lead up to that,” Anderson said.
It’s incredible to think there aren’t any big pieces left from the 2014 team that made the Cinderella-esque run through the Southern Conference Tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Casey was on that team, but she was not a starter.
But with the foundation in place now, notably with Ward, Lucas, Braschi and Beisenova, another NCAA Tournament appearance might not be far away.