PALATINE HILL -- Not since 1979 had a Lewis & Clark women's tennis team won a conference championship. Last season, the Pioneers changed that, claiming the Northwest Conference title through an undefeated season and three wins over Whitman, which had won 39-straight NWC matches entering the 2015-16 season.
The success started last fall when Lewis & Clark had three competitors earn All-American status through wins at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championships. This year's edition of the tournament is this weekend in Walla Walla, Wash.
Head coach Patrick Dreves returns for his sixth season leading the program. Last season, Dreves earned NWC Coach of the Year and his second-straight ITA West Region Coach of the Year.
Seniors Glenna Gee-Taylor and Wiktoria Plawska return for the 2016-17 season. Gee-Taylor returns from an injury-plagued junior year and is expected to be in the lineup throughout the season. Meanwhile, Plawska finished with 14 singles wins last year, third-most on the team. She also paired with Kacey Incerpi to go 13-4 as a doubles pair.
Incerpi is back for her junior season, part of a class that includes Christine Eliazo, Adrienne Fox and Natalie Kelly. Incerpi went 10-5 as a singles competitor last year, winning four straight matches toward the end of the season. Eliazo was an All-American and led the Pios in wins as a singles player, racking up a 17-2 record. She was 5-0 when playing in No. 2 or 3 position. Fox and Kelly were 4-0 combined in their singles matches last year. Kelly also competes for women's basketball.
Vika O'Brien and Carla Thomas are returning sophomores. O'Brien should see regular time in the starting lineup, especially in doubles. She was 5-0 in singles last year. Thomas played in one singles and three doubles matches a season ago.
Like Thomas, freshman Caroline Hennes is a two-sport student-athlete. Both are members of the women's soccer team. Hennes' athleticism is an asset and she should compete for spots in the lineup.
Including Hennes, the freshman class is a hard-working group with three from overseas. Tash Hood joins the team from Antibes, France. She was a team captain for a group that won a regional championship. Chloe Sermet comes from Bali, Indonesia and chose Lewis & Clark because she felt it was an environment in which she fit well. From Brisbane, Australia, Caitlin Jones was a two-time MVP for her team. She played No. 1 singles her final year of high school.
Josie Legarza should be an immediate contributor. Out of Las Vegas' Odyssey Charter, Legarza was the Nevada state runner-up.
Lewis & Clark will start the spring season in February.