Mustangs Use Summer Tune-Up to Prepare for Four-Peat
Western Mustangs Women's TennisGreg Bowman
As the month of August takes over, surely you’ve been haunted by the “Back to School” sales and promotions all over. While some students are dragging their feet before classes come back in September, the Western Mustangs women’s tennis team have already had their first tune-up of the season. This past weekend, the Aviva Centre in Toronto was home to the Canada University Women’s Tennis Championship.
A handful of Canadian schools travelled to the GTA to play on the same grounds as the WTA Rogers Cup tournament. Western’s women’s team captured the silver medal in the event.
“It’s a pretty awesome experience,” said Mustangs women’s head coach, Mike Richards. “They’ve been following the [WTA] tour for years and they know a lot of the players.” One of the team’s matches was played on a court adjacent to where superstar Serena Williams was practicing.
The Mustangs first matchup was against Memorial University, hailing out of Newfoundland. “It was great that they sent out a team, but we really didn’t have anyone shine out there because the matches were relatively easy and simple,” said Richards on his team’s first matchup, which saw them dismantle the Maritimers 7-0.
From there, the Mustangs advanced to the Championship matchup against the University of Alberta. The Pandas took an early lead they did not relinquish. It was accented by toppling Western’s top player, Helen He.
Despite the result in the championship fixture, Richards saw some strong play: “Our number six player and our number three player were really playing well… Leanna Carpino who plays sixth, and Sophie Bui who was playing number three,” said the Mustangs coach, who also gave praise to London product, Camille Duggal.
This was the first time the team has been together since last year, where they won their third consecutive OUA Gold Medal. This year’s team will be much younger though. Multiple OUA Player of the Year winner, Helen He, played her final matches with the purple and white.
“It’s a pretty big blow to the team, but our two and three players are strong. I think they can step up and take her spot,” commented Richards on the loss of He.
The purple & white now have a much younger roster with a winning pedigree, who already have a couple competitive matches under their belts come the fall when the OUA season starts up.
“Toronto and York are really our rivals and you never know what you’re going to get because they’re such big universities,” explained Richards on his expectations this year. “For us, we’ve won three years in a row, and I think our expectation is to win. We have lost our number one player… but this team’s used to winning, we haven’t lost a lot. So, I would say we’re looking for OUA gold again.”
Along with the competition, the Mustangs also had the opportunity to take in a match at the Rogers Cup. They witnessed Serena Williams take on Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals, meeting for the first time since the US Open. That was paired with the overall excitement over hometown product, Bianca Andreescu, who won the championship as a Canadian for the first time in a half-century.
For the Mustangs, expectations will be high in an OUA tennis scene that continually gets the best out of everyone. While the Torontos and Yorks will surely have bolstered their rosters in the offseason, the Mustangs are ready for whatever the season has in store for them as they look to make it a four-peat.