Mike Barrett, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — With the start of the 2018-19 tennis season less than a week away, the Lake Superior State women's tennis team has its sights set on a year that will hopefully see a return to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) tournament.
Looking to follow up an incredible rookie year is defending GLIAC Player of the Year AlexiAnn Drouin.
The sophomore from Saint-Georges, Quebec had a season for the ages. During the fall season, she held an incredible 11-1 record while playing in the top singles position against the toughest competition the GLIAC had to offer.
Although Lake Superior finished just one win outside the playoff picture, Drouin's efforts were recognized by the league, as she became the first women's tennis player for the Lakers to be named Player of the Year. This came despite not receiving any weekly conference accolades during the season.
"Alex winning the conference player of the year is a great thing for the school and the team currently and in the future," said Lakers head coach Luke Ogren. "I believe that her success has really helped the team to believe that we will be able to improve quickly and start achieving some of our goals."
Starting the year at the number one singles position, her performances against the best of the conference came as a surprise to many — including herself. "My first year exceeded all my expectations," said Drouin, who goes by Alex. "I just stayed pretty calm for all my matches and tried the best I could for all of them and it brought me great results."
Ogren, on the other hand, saw tremendous potential within the Quebec native. "I told Alex going into the season that there wouldn't be a girl that she couldn't compete with at number one singles," said Ogren. "I told her there would be a lot of tough matches, but that she would be good enough to win them. I think it came as a little bit of a surprise to everyone how well she did. Usually freshmen will struggle a lot more in close matches, but she was able to convert a lot of them into wins."
Part of coming to Lake State meant some relatively uncharted territory, as far as her tennis game was concerned. The then-freshman had little experience playing doubles. Luckily, her teammates had much experience and were able to share their knowledge.
"I hadn't played doubles much before coming to Lake State, so they helped me learn new strategies and being more aggressive with my volleys with really helped me a lot," said Drouin. "[Coach Ogren] helped develop my doubles game greatly since I got here."
A biochemistry major, Drouin hopes to attend grad school for pharmacology. "I chose that because I love chemistry and to be able to help people."
Drouin, when asked what brought her to Lake Superior, said that the small campus and academics played a big role — as well as the tennis team.
One thing that seems to hold true for many college tennis teams is the international flavor that each provides. The 2018-19 squad features four players from the United States, two from Canada, one from Scotland and one from France. Drouin, however, found the adjustment to college life in the U.S. easier than one may have expected.
"I lived in Michigan when I was younger so I already knew what to expect and I had a good base in English," remarked Drouin.
While another great season individually is on her radar, Drouin has her sights set on reaching the GLIAC Tournament, which Lake Superior has not participated in since 2011.
"I do believe that our chances are better because our three new players will make the team even stronger," she said.
"I hope that she is able to have another great season in terms of wins and losses," commented Ogren. "However, I also want her more to be a part of the great strides we are making towards success in the GLIAC."
The Lakers play their first home match on Saturday, September 22nd against Wayne State in the Arbuckle Student Activities Center. Admission is free on and open to the public.
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