Special: Tennis faces less intense competition, coach says

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    The women’s tennis team is looking to break new ground in 2006 and take head coach Dave Borelli where he’s never been before during his tenure at TCU: a conference championship podium.”My goal is to try and win a conference championship,” Borelli said. “I haven’t won one here yet.”

    Even a Mountain West Conference victory would not fully satisfy Borelli, who won seven national championships at the University of Southern California before coming to TCU in 2002.

    “We’d also like to finish in the Top 16, the Sweet 16 … and host a regional,” Borelli said.

    Though the Frogs have had recent success under Borelli – they finished last season with a 21-5 record and a No. 19 national ranking – he said the squad might have a better chance this year than ever before.

    “We’re a pretty good team with a pretty deep squad,” Borelli said. “We’re still as good as we were last year, maybe better.”

    With such high preseason expectations surrounding the team, Borelli said TCU may already be in uncharted territory.

    “We’re in a position we’ve never really been in before, to do something great in the end,” Borelli said. “Our progress was fair in the offseason, now it comes down to the end of the year.”

    One early stumbling block for the Frogs may prove to be the health of key players. Sophomore Nicole Leimbach has battled a stress fracture in her foot, and both junior Ana Cetnik and freshman Anna Sydorska are also dealing with nagging injury problems.

    Borelli said there’s no point in dwelling on the negatives of lingering injury.

    “It always is (a problem),” Borelli said. “It was last year. But everything evens out.”

    Despite the health issues, senior Helena Besovic said the team is still standing together.

    “I think we all work as a team,” Besovic said. “We’re all very important. Everyone works.”

    While several TCU sports teams are benefitting from an increased level of competition by moving to the MWC, Borelli said the transfer actually hurts the women in several ways.

    “It hurts us now, as we’re obligated to play a conference schedule,” Borelli said. “Now we’re on a travel budget.”

    Playing in the MWC certainly involves travel. For conference play alone, the team will have to fly to Utah, New Mexico and California.

    Borelli also said although the move is a good thing for the athletic program as a whole, the new conference lacks top-level, ranked tennis competition.

    “It’s really a two-team conference now, us versus BYU,” Borelli said. “That’s the one we have to beat. The bottom line is it cuts down on our ability to play better teams.”

    Borelli said while winning the conference will get a team to the NCAA tournament, players improve by playing high-level opponents.

    “It’s who you play,” Borelli said. “The only way to get better is to play the best.