UNIVERSITY CENTER, Mich. - The Saginaw Valley State University women's tennis team is ready to return to competition for the 2021 season, as the Cardinals host Hillsdale College in a non-conference matchup at noon on Saturday in Midland, Mich.
The Cardinals are led by Ryan Ruzziconi in his first season as the head coach. Ruzziconi took over the program in September 2020 and is excited to finally see his team compete. SVSU finished the 2019 season with a record of 4-13 overall and 2-5 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"We are excited to get back on the court and play actual matches," Ruzziconi said. "We did get to practice this fall but didn't have matches. So, there is an excitement in the air at practice about playing matches again and getting the season underway. It feels like the first day of school again."
Gao, a member of the All-GLIAC Second Team in 2019, was 7-10 overall as a junior, competing at No. 2 singles for the Cardinals. Gao and Daza Gutierrez formed one of the top SVSU doubles combinations in 2019, posting a record of 6-7 in 13 matches at No. 2. Johnson finished above .500 with a 10-9 record in singles in 2019.
"Each has great practice habits and helps set the tone each day," Ruzziconi said. " I expect all three of them to have big seasons for us this year and to be that leadership example for their teammates. Sophomores Sara Neves and Adiya Young will be playing a much larger role this season. Both have really improved in their second year at SVSU. I expect them to anchor our lineup and I have every confidence that they are ready for that task."
"Chelsea has brought a veteran leadership that I think has helped us grow as a team," Ruzziconi said. "Emma is that fearless freshman who is willing to jump into the lineup and compete. We will need them both to play key roles this season."
Following the match with Hillsdale on Saturday, SVSU hosts Tiffin University at 11 am on Sunday in MIdland. The Cardinals open the GLIAC schedule against Northwood University on March 20, followed by the conference home opener versus Grand Valley State University. The 2021 season closes on April 17 at Ashland University.
The 2021 GLIAC Tournament is scheduled for April 23-25, while the NCAA DII Women's Tennis Championship is set for May 18-22 in Surprise, Ariz.