It came as no surprise that the BYU women's tennis program would have to undergo some rebuilding this season, what with only three players back, and not one of them a senior, and five new freshman to train.
It appears, though, that coach Ann Valentine and assistants Keith Nielson and Trevor Rothfels, have put together a pretty sturdy structure with materials at hand.With half a season behind them, the Lady Cougars are a respectable 11-2. And, with half a season still ahead it appears no letdown is likely. They are, as a team, playing well.
Last Thursday, the Cougars rebuffed a strong challenge by the University of Utah in the one and only dual match between the two this season, 5-4. At the start of the season Utah was ranked 20 and BYU 21 in women's collegiate tennis.
But as Nielson pointed out, "We don't have the one dominate player, like we had last year in Mary Beth Young, but I think we're a little stronger overall."
And, recently made stronger, he admitted, by the signing of two international players.
The two - Italians Sarah Mugnaini and Federica Lentini - signed with the Cougars after commitments with other tennis programs fell through in the fall. So new are they, in fact, they missed making the BYU women's tennis guide.
They replace two other players - Sheri Yandle, who would have been the Cougars only seniors, but was pulled from the rosters because of injuries, and Jennifer Rozsa - listed among eight in the guide.
Filling the BYU roster are:
Evica Koljanin, a freshman from Split, Yugoslavia. She was ranked No. 1 on the Yugoslavian National Junior Team in 1989. According to Nielson, she is a strong backcourt player, who learned her game on the slower clay courts, and is noted for her ability to come from behind to win.
Jennifer Holmes is a sophomore from Littleton, Colo. She, too, is a backcourt player, plays well in singles and doubles, and is recognized for her competitiveness.
Lesley Barbour is a freshman from Zimbabwe. She was her country's No. 1 junior and No. 2 senior in 1989. She is recognized for her baseline play and strong serve.
Monika Kobilikova is a sophomore from Czechoslovakia. Many people have compared her game to Ivan Lendl's - and for good reason. Her coach during her learning years was Lendl's mother. She was at one time ranked No. 45 in the world. She underwent shoulder surgery in September and is just now getting back into her game.
Maddy Diekmann, from Las Vegas, is a junior and the most experienced player on the team in college tennis. She won at No. 4 singles last year in the conference finals. She is noted for her strong baseline game.
Anissa Robinson, a freshman from Bountiful, is the only "local" on the BYU team this year. She played No. 1 singles for Woods Cross High School. She is, too, the most aggressive player and probably the team's only true serve and volley player.
Nielson acknowledged that the team has more of an international flavoring this year.
He said the school recruited within the United States, but concentrated more on international players this year. One reason is that BYU's strong tennis program and reputation is drawing more interest from players outside the U.S.
Summing up the BYU team, Nielson said, "We've definitely got a young team this year, but we've got some very good players. I think people who watch us this year will see a very high level of tennis."