The Omaha women’s tennis team is in the midst of having their best season since 2016 and lead the Summit League with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Mavericks are tied for first place in the conference with previously-ranked Denver with the conference tournament right around the corner, April 27-28 in Denver.
The Mavericks have toughened out several wins so far, which has them at 11-9 (2-0 in Summit League play) and on their way to the team’s best finish in two seasons and best so far under Head Coach Adam Summitt.
This however, was not the plan he had going into his second season at Omaha, but Summitt has welcomed the success with open arms. Summitt described the initial goal to use this season with a younger roster as a “build-up year,” but his team has since exceeded those expectations.
“My expectations going in were to be competitive this year and get the girls to learn how to win,” Summitt said. “There’s a lot of things coaches can’t teach and winning is one of those things.”
The team got off to a 2-5 start, a stretch that included four-straight losses, but a three-match winning streak in mid-February turned the tide for the Mavericks. “We took some lumps early, but ever since the Bradly/UNI matches, we’ve been playing better every weekend,” Summitt said.
That consistent play earned senior Michelle Lo and freshman Marie Kapelevich Summit League Player of the Week honors back-to-back. The first time two different Mavericks earned the award in a single season in program history.
LO LEADING THE MAVS
Lo (32-33 career record) is having her toughest season yet in the Mavericks No. 1 slot and dealt with nagging injuries and some bad breaks early in the season according to Summitt. He says Lo’s good to go now as she sits at 6-10, and ready for an eventual showdown with Denver’s Julia O’Loughlin (11-3, 1-0) ranked 59th in singles according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
The All-Summit team member three years running has brought the leadership needed to help christen a young team. “Michelle’s our leader and captain, she’s been here for four years and knows what’s expected,” said Summitt. “She’s a great communicator between myself and the rest of the team, she wants to leave here knowing the program is better.”
A big element in the Mavericks success this season has been the play of their doubles teams. Lo and junior Janelle Wilson are the only upperclassmen on this year’s team, and the duo is 9-2 at No. 1 doubles. The freshmen duo of Savanna Crowell and Natalie Lorentz is 13-4 at the No. 2 doubles slot, and both teams are undefeated (2-0) in conference play.
“All of our freshmen are stepping up and not carrying themselves like freshmen,” said Summitt. In the rebound weekend at Miracle Hill Tennis Center against Bradley, Crowell and Lorentz clinched the doubles point for Omaha after coming back to win 7-6 (7-4). The comeback began a wave of gradual momentum and the Mavericks are 9-4 since that weekend.
“We put an emphasis on getting off to a good start. We’ve won the doubles point in 14 of our 20 matches so far this season, so doubles have been huge for us,” said Summitt.
Getting the early doubles point has earned the Mavericks some wins this season, but the depth of their singles roster is also a major catalyst to their success.
Wilson is 11-4 at the No. 2 spot for the Mavericks, while Kapelvich (13-5) and Lorentz (11-9) have brought much-needed relief in the No. 3-6 spots throughout the season. Sophomores Emily Behling (7-8, 1-0) and Rylee Tucker (7-7, 0-1) have also brought significant help throughout the season at the 4-6 slots.
This depth came in handy earlier in the season when the Mavericks won a match for the first time in two years after losing the doubles point. The Mavs came back and won 5-of-6 singles matches to earn the victory March 9 at Chicago State.
Although the team has already exceeded Summitt’s expectations this season, he says there’s still more to work on every season no matter where you’re at as a program. “We can improve every year at some point, as long as we can show little improvement somewhere each year, we can get where we want to go,” said Summitt.
Things like beating Denver, Creighton, getting Maverick players into the ITA rankings, and most importantly, winning conference are always going to be aiming points for Summitt’s program.
There’s still chances this season to cross some of those tasks off the list and the team has more than shown the potential of doing just that. How will they win this year’s conference championship?
“Grit, effort and belief, if you go out there with the right attitude and right effort, anything can happen. The girls just need to remember to play a faceless opponent,” said Summitt.
“No one is unbeatable.”