Story written by Kevin Winter for CUWFalcons.com
The tennis you see on television often features two individuals competing against one another. A player and her opponent battling to decide an outcome. In collegiate tennis, however, at least a portion of the match is team oriented. Each match has nine points to be won and the first team to win five is declared the winner.
The first three matches of the competition are doubles, further emphasizing the team aspect of the sport. Concordia University Wisconsin's Women's Tennis team is off to a great start this season posting a 7-0 record in Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference play, due in large part to the play of its doubles pairings.
"Every tennis coach knows you always want to have good doubles teams so that a team begins with the advantage right away, whether it is 2-1 or 3-0 advantage," said head coach Steve Anschutz. "It's not so much the score, but the mental side of it. If you are up 2-1 or 3-0 going into singles, everyone feels that much better. There is a relaxation and a confidence factor to it."
The Falcons doubles teams are 19-2 in seven conference matches this season. The tandem of sophomore Hannah Tresedder (Kingsford, Mich.) and junior Michaela Wagner (Oswego, Ill.) have posted an unblemished 7-0 record, outscoring opponents 57-9 in those contests.
"If we do win all three doubles matches, it really does help with singles because there is a lot less pressure," said Wagner who primarily plays at No. 2 doubles. "I think we all try to really hard to put forth our best effort, so we are able to get those points right away."
During the regular season, all nine matches are played to conclusion regardless of team score. In the NACC Tournament, the first team to five points is victorious, regardless of any pending matches remaining on the court.
"The intensity is higher in singles during the tournament when you already started and there are points for or against (because of doubles play)," said Wagner. "It makes you feel like you are timed during singles. It has happened to us before and we put our focus on doubles so we don't have so much pressure with the singles matches later on."
Before stepping into the head coaching role, Steve Anschutz finished his four year career at CUW with a 25-1 conference record in singles play and a 24-3 conference record in doubles competition.
"I was a player who loved more people and more pressure. I am the opposite of most of my players," expressed Anschutz when talking about doubles play. "With the men's tennis I really amp it up and make it a big deal. With the women's team I do the complete opposite. 'This is just another practice, another match. You have done this a million times. It's no big deal. Have fun go out there and try your best.'
"I calm them down because when you get so excited the ball can takes 100 seconds to get to you and the next thing you know your racket is swinging through as fast as you can and you hit the side fence."
The 2015-16 season is a role reversal for Wagner. As a sophomore she played with senior Emily McCormick, but this year she is paired with Tresedder, an underclassmen herself.
"Last year I would go to Emily and ask her 'What should I do in this particular situation' because she had more experience playing collegiate tennis," Wagner said. "This year is a little bit different because I am older than Tresedder, so she does come to me and asked me what she should do in this situation."
The pair works to use their talents to their advantage.
"Since we are closer in age, I think we can both help each other," said Wagner. "It's not like I am the only one helping her. We are going to each other mutually. Playing with Emily last year I felt like she knew everything and then I just go to her for advice. So, I think that is what is different this year."
It doesn't matter if Tresedder or Wagner smashes the final ball to gain the doubles victory, because the important part is their success helps the Falcons gain the much needed momentum early in the match.