Women’s tennis coach John Mercer hopes experience gives his Thundering Herd a decided advantage in the upcoming season.
“We have a lot of people returning,” Mercer said. “There are six starters who got a lot of playing time last year. The one freshman (Dana Oppinger from Germany) we’re adding is a strong player who will help us at the top of the lineup. We’ll show marked improvement.”
Last spring, the Herd finished 13-10, falling to host Memphis in the Conference USA Tournament semifinals. Marshall was 7-0 at home.
“Our goal always is to make the NCAA Tournament as a team and to have players playing individually in the NCAA Tournament,” Mercer said. “We should be in a good position to do that this year. We just have to focus on it on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s a long season, a long year. We don’t have an off-semester. Two weeks after Labor Day, we’re playing in the U.Va. Tournament. We play the entire fall, lots of individual tournaments. And the week after the spring semester resumes, we’re back to playing. It’s a whole year of competition.
“You have to take it in little segments. And you can’t get too overwhelmed. I hope we won’t see as many ups and downs this year as we have seen.”
One of the players Mercer hopes provides some of those ups is senior Dominika Zaprazna.
The native of Bratislava, Slovakia, posted a combined record of 27-12 playing in the first position in singles and doubles.
“Dominika made a big jump last year,” Mercer said. “She already had been a good player, making the NCAA Doubles Tournament the first two years. Last year, she showed a marked improvement in her singles game.”
Last year, she earned a first-team spot on the C-USA All-Conference Team with her 10-8 singles record and 17-4 doubles record.
Still, Zaprazna is looking for improvement.
“I definitely hope this year is going to be better than last year,” she said. “As a team, I think we will do better in the conference and the NCAA tournaments. And personally, I hope to break the record in doubles.”
Zaprazna is closing in on Marshall’s career record for doubles victories. She is about 20 away from the mark. She and fellow Slovakian Maria Voscekova -- who will be a junior this season-- were ranked as high as No. 35 in doubles in the spring. Zaprazna’s all-time doubles winning percentage at Marshall is .782.
The business management major said she also thinks experience will make the squad better this season.
“We have two seniors and three juniors,” Zaprazna said. “It’s definitely going to be better. Hopefully, we can use that experience. Plus, we will have a lot of home matches in spring. So, that’s always good.
“I’d like to have more people come out and support us.”
Zaprazna’s road from Slovokia to Huntington isn’t as complicated as one might imagine.
“Marshall was the only team I really talked to,” she explained. “John (Mercer) came to Slovakia and saw me play. Everything worked out well.
“I’d never been here, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
And now, more than three years later, Zaprazna said she still hasn’t been able to explore the region as much as she would like.
“We are so busy basically playing year-round, we don’t have a lot of time to do other stuff,” she said. “We’re on campus all the time. But, I do like campus, and I like school. It’s very pretty.”
Zaprazna, who is majoring in business management, said her senior season will be bittersweet.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately,” she said. “It’s a crazy time, but I’m excited for this last season. I’ll just go out there and try to play my best.”