The Shippensburg University women’s tennis team heads into 2023 with a clean slate, looking to continue to build positive momentum off a season in which they won two conference matches and remained in the mix of teams vying for a playoff spot.
Head coach Sheila Bush, entering her second season at SU, has been working hard to establish a new, winning culture and dynamic within the team.
“Coach Bush is our biggest advocate, not only on the court but also on campus,” noted junior Kendall Winters (Lancaster, Pa./Lampeter Strasburg). “She is always there and always active. She can fix mistakes easily and is adamant about fixing those mistakes. Having her pushing us is going to make us such a strong team.”
“Coach Bush does a really good job of making us aware of what are personal strengths are,” added senior Brighid Cantwell (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield). “It’s important to know what you can do better, but it’s also important to know what you are doing right. She does a good job of making sure that we are aware of that and are able to build on our strengths.”
The clearest measure of the positive direction of the program under Coach Bush are in the numbers. With four new freshmen to a core of six returning players, SU has fielded its largest women’s tennis roster in recent memory for the upcoming season.
“We have so much depth this year,” said Bush. “Last year we barely had enough players to field a team, so with our new players we’re excited about being able to compete at a higher level.”
“It is refreshing to have something to look forward to with all the lowerclassmen coming in,” mentioned junior Brooklynn Rupert (Altoona, Pa./Altoona Area). “We have a bigger roster and a little more room for error with injuries. Last semester it was very stressful knowing that one person going down could really throw off a match. It is very encouraging.”
Despite working with a larger group of players, the team is impressed with how quickly its chemistry has developed.
“[Our chemistry] is coming along great,” said Rupert. “A lot of upperclassmen are pairing with the lowerclassmen in order to bond. There is no hesitation with our mix at all.”
“This year we are all coming to practice with a positive attitude. People are staying after to work – especially our freshmen,” added Winters. “We work together well. We know when we can goof off and we know when we can be serious. We can be very direct with each other. We really are a team of one.”
Aiming to be more competitive within the conference this year, the program has also strengthened its fall schedule to include more matches in the lead up to the PSAC Individual Championships. The Raiders will play six matches, including four home tilts, before PSACs take place Oct. 6-9.
Cantwell hopes to lead the Raider charge after finishing with a 4-2 record in individual conference matches this past spring.
“A fresh start is something that I am really looking forward to,” she stated. “It is a new beginning, especially with all the new people we have this year.”
Cantwell continued, “My motivation is my teammates. I’ve been here so long and I know these girls so well I want to make them proud and do right by them – on the court and off the court. I want to make sure that I play my best for them.”
The Raiders begin their 2023 fall campaign with a pair of matches this weekend, opening their home slate Friday at 3 p.m. against Chestnut Hill, then traveling to California (Pa.) Saturday for a 1 p.m. start.