SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women's tennis team is headed to the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Tournament as the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Florida Southern at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
A look at the team: The Lions are a very young squad this season, as they start three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting line-up, along with two seniors. Senior Marine Beugre-Guyot anchors the Lions as one of the key contributors to the team's NCAA Semifinalist run a season ago where she played No. 3 singles a majority of the season. This year, Beurge-Guyot has been asked to step up and has played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles all season long. Sophomore Madeleine Gauthier also contributed to the Lions NCAA postseason run in 2016, winning all four of her singles matches at No. 6 in Denver at the 2016 NCAA Spring Festival. This year, Gauthier has moved up to No. 5 singles and has helped clinch multiple matches for the Lions. Senior Katherine Zaatini has also been asked to play an increased role in her senior season. Zaatini entered 2017 having a 6-0 doubles record, and a 12-6 singles record combined over her previous three seasons. This year, she has more played all 14 of the Lions matches at both doubles and singles. Saint Leo's No. 2, 3 and 4 spots are filled by the freshman, as Maja Pindelska, Kristyna Jurkova, and Fabiola Cardenas have been asked to contribute all season long in those flights, respectively.
Coach Chad Berryhill's remarks on his team: "Playing with youth is always a challenge, especially when all three freshmen started in January with not a lot of time to adjust to college life. We definitely felt those growing pains earlier in the season, but now that they have more experience, it has definitely paid off down the stretch. Also with sophomore Madeleine Gauthier, she is getting much more court time this spring as opposed to last spring and she has been able to flourish with that increased playing time. The underclassmen definitely have a lot more confidence now and have also developed into better singles and doubles players throughout the semester. This experience will continue to pay off throughout the rest of the season."
Season Breakdown: Saint Leo opened the season 3-5 in their first eight games, but in mid-March, the team turned it on and closed out the regular season with a 6-1 record. The Lions earned a highlight win over No. 24 Florida Southern, 5-4, in their second to last game of the regular season.
Season thoughts from Coach Berryhill: "We have had some unfortunate circumstances this year with a top player transferring mid-year and another top player suffering a season-ending injury, but overall I am very happy with the progression of our team and the grit they can display on the court. A highlight and turning point of our season was going down 0-3 to Tampa after doubles and being able to win five singles points to clinch the match. From that moment, we definitely starting playing some better tennis and that led eventually to a win over No. 3 seed Florida Southern, which was a very good win for us. We definitely are playing better now than we did to start the season.
SSC Strong: The Sunshine State Conference has proven to be one of the top conferences for tennis in the nation. Barry, who went 9-0 in SSC play, is currently the No. 3 team in the nation in the ITA rankings. Lynn, who finished second in the SSC with an 8-1 record, is the No. 2 ranked team. Florida Southern is currently ranked No. 25, while Rollins is No. 27, and Saint Leo is No. 29.
Coach Berryhill's comments on the strength of the SSC: "The conference is very strong and has very good depth. Teams like Barry and Lynn are as good as any team in the country and then you have a lot of parity between the rest of the teams. A lot of 5-4 matches this season around the conference which made for a very fun and interesting season. Anything could happen in the SSC Tournament!"
For the latest news, updates, and information on the Saint Leo Tennis be sure to visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.