CASTLETON, Vt. – After consecutive North East Athletic Conference (NEAC) Championships, the Castleton women's tennis team has high expectations this fall. Led by senior and two-time NEAC East Player of the Year Michelle Podnecky (Bridgewater, Vt.), the Spartans are the prohibitive favorite to make it out of the NEAC East Division and once again challenge for the conference crown and automatic bid to the NCAA Championships next spring.
Second-year head coach Rob Purdy is confident in his team's abilities. "As always we'll strive to win the East Division title and reach the NEAC title game. Our top returning players give us a strong lineup and though we have to replace a pair of singles and doubles positions we have experienced newcomers who should make a smooth transition."
Purdy's list of top returners begins with the women at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Podnecky stepped in the No. 1 singles position as a freshman and flourished, posting a 34-4 singles record over her first three seasons, including an 11-2 mark last season. In addition to being a two-time first-team all-conference selection in singles, Podnecky has been named first team in doubles with classmate Kate Bucci (Wakefield, R.I.) each of the past two seasons. Last year the two teamed up to go 14-1 at No. 1 doubles, with their only loss coming to Skidmore in the NCAA Championships. Bucci was almost as impressive in singles, earning first-team All-NEAC honors for the second time after going 10-3 in the second position.
In addition to the seniors, juniors Chelsea Crehan (Essex, Conn.), Lauren Fedorka (Temple, N.H.) and Erica Bilodeau (Castleton, N.Y.) are expected to contribute for the Spartans. Crehan played the majority of her matches at No. 5 singles last season, earning first-team All-NEAC honors with her 11-1 mark. She also went 9-4 at No. 2 doubles. Fedorka and Bildoeau, meanwhile, add depth to the squad and expect to challenge for one of the open singles and doubles spots.
To compliment the returners, Purdy welcomes three newcomers to the program in junior transfer Brittany Quattrocci, and freshmen Felica West of West Rutland high school and Olga McIntyre of Burr & Burton Academy.
"Our ultimate goal is to reach the NCAA Championships and bring with us the experience we gained in our first two trips. I expect our women to compete at the highest level in both our conference and non-conference schedule."
The team opens their fall schedule with a home match against Plattsburgh St. on Sept. 4 before hitting the road for three matches, including an NEAC battle with Thomas. The Spartans will also have the opportunity to avenge last season's losses to Colby Sawyer and also take on Union before the NEAC playoffs on Oct. 15.