The Thunder women’s tennis team closed out a noteworthy season on Oct. 23, finishing with a 10-3 record and coming in second place in the CCIW Conference Tournament.
At Centre Court Athletic Club in Hanover Park, No. 3 seed Wheaton dominated Carroll University and Millikin University. Wheaton was then pitted against No. 1 seed North Central College in the finals, falling to the undefeated Cardinals.
Junior anthropology major Abygale Ahn and freshman communication major Audrey Vick, the top-seeded doubles partners in the conference, were both named to the All-CCIW women’s tennis team, Ahn to the first team, Vick to the second.
“It was kind of a blur,” Vick said of the three-day tournament. “We played a team [Millikin] that we had lost to in the regular season for the semifinals, and to beat them to get to the finals was really a powerful moment.” Millikin was seeded second heading into the tournament but lost to the Thunder 5-1.
The tournament left the women invigorated for future matches. “Our team showed that we have competitive grit and indomitable spirit,” Ahn said. “Even our loss in the finals to North Central left us fired up to work hard in the offseason to take them at the end of the spring season.”
This season has been a bit of an odd one, considering this fall marked the first time the Thunder have competed in fall matches since 2019, due to COVID-19. For the team’s five underclassmen, who make up half the team, it was the first time they had experienced fall competition.
“It has been so fun to be competing in the fall again,” Ahn said. “It has been exciting to see the underclassmen enjoy the novelty of starting out the school year with the team in competition.”
Senior captain Bethany Hoogerheide, an elementary education major, said, “It has been truly amazing to see such growth in everyone’s tennis games over the course of the season.” Each player, she said, “showed up to practice with the mindset of positivity and wanting to make each other better.”
Hoogerheide credited Coach Jane Nelson and her staff with helping players keep a positive attitude. Nelson, the captain said, encouraged players to make a strong effort while “remembering that we are much more than our wins and losses.”
Before each match, Nelson shared a prayer from Olympic swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker. “Father God,” the prayer went, “may your will be done, may your peace fill us up, may we praise you no matter what the outcome, may we be empowered by your strength to give it our all, and may we forever be in the awe of your goodness! Thank you for bringing us to this very moment.”
Along with their successes on the court, team members rejoiced in their shared sense of camaraderie. “Tennis often seems very individual,” Ahn said. It’s easy to think about only your own progress, but our team was truly others-focused, which begins first with the example of Jesus, then with the leadership of our coach and captains.”