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January 22, 2014

Oakland University tennis to compete in inaugural season in the Horizon League

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Oakland University tennis to compete in inaugural season in the Horizon League
Pictured is Oakland University tennis player Cam Sabourin. The Golden Grizzlies’ goal is to qualify for the Horizon League Championship.

While it may not be obvious from the weather, preparation for the spring college tennis season is in full swing, including for the women’s squad from Oakland University, which plays home matches indoors at Bloomfield Tennis & Fitness. 

Head coach Heather Redshaw said the Golden Grizzlies had the program’s best finish ever in the Summit League last season, finishing tied for fifth.

While it may be a good start, in what will be Oakland’s inaugural season in the Horizon League, Redshaw wouldn’t mind having even better results for her squad.

“We have a team that’s building,” she said. “We’ve been able to recruit really high-quality athletes, so it’s been nice that way. We have a lot of returners this year that will be sophomores, and we expect really good things out of them. With a year of college tennis under their belt, we should do pretty well this year. ”

The top six teams qualify for the Horizon League postseason tournament, and being one of the qualifying teams is something junior and team captain Cam Sabourin has already given some thought to.

“Our goal is to get into the conference championship,” she said. “Being in this conference, it’s a plus for us. We are really excited; it’s a great opportunity for us.”

In what could help prepare Oakland for Horizon League play, the Golden Grizzlies will play matches against programs such as Ball State University, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Stetson University, which are teams Redshaw said are “really good.” And while this season’s goal is to be one of the six teams that qualify for the Horizon League championship, one of Redshaw’s longer-term ambitions is to be near the top of the Horizon League standings every year.

And with a young squad, which Redshaw said was made up of mostly freshmen last season, she would like to build a program capable of making some fresh history at Oakland University.

“We’re trying to set the bar high for these student-athletes,” she said. “They work very, very hard. These are the type of girls that can take this program to the next level. Last year, we had a really good match against FAU. We lost, but it was very, very close. And it kind of sends a message to our rivals that, ‘Wow, you guys have gotten a lot better,’ I like to hear that. As a coach, you’re like, ‘Yeah, we are much better.’

“It’s exciting as a coach, exciting as a program. And they’re really good students, as well.”

Gaining the confidence to win tough matches, and getting a tennis court on campus, which may happen as early as next season, are a couple of ways that could help Oakland achieve at a high level moving forward.

Redshaw took an optimistic approach about the future of Oakland’s tennis program.

“From where we started, we are in the right direction,” she said. “I find that every day we walk out on the tennis court, we’re getting better. I am very optimistic with this team. I think we have the players in place that can play very well and give our school some success on the tennis court. Moving forward, I think we’re getting more and more recruits.

“I expect great things out of this university and this program. I expect to be top in the Horizon League within the next couple years, and I am hoping to stay there.”

Two of Oakland’s local players are Theresa Elder and Genevieve LaCrosse, both of whom attended Rochester Hills Stoney Creek High School.

Oakland is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 in a road match against Ball State.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.