NORTHRIDGE, Calif. ---
Competing in several tournaments throughout Southern California and Arizona, the Cal State Northridge women's tennis program had a strong fall season to prepare for the upcoming 2014 campaign. CSUN head coach Gary Victor and his assistant coaches, James Ciuffo and Jim Buck, saw plenty of impressive performances that left him feeling confident when dual matches begin in January.
The Matadors feature a solid mixture of returning letterwinners and intriguing newcomers that showed plenty of promise throughout the fall season. CSUN boasts six newcomers to the roster and Coach Victor was enthused by what he saw on the courts, especially against rivals from the Pac-12, Big 12, West Coast, Mountain West and other conferences.
"We are a young team that has lots of depth and character," Victor said. "Making the line-up for our dual-match season will be challenging, but one we relish having because of the depth."
Leading the charge for the Matadors is senior Lorraine Cheung, a 5-3 sparkplug that earned All-Big West and ITA Academic All-American honors last year.
This fall, she racked up numerous victories in singles and doubles, but maybe none more impressive than a decision over Washington's Brianna Kemp in San Diego. Cheung was a set down and 4-1 in the second before mounting the comeback against the ex-NBA star's daughter. The next day, she posted back-to-back Pac-12 victories, as she recorded a straight-set singles victory over Utah.
Cheung teamed with sophomore Jessica Warren to win the consolation side of their doubles bracket with victories over Southern Methodist University and San Diego State. She also teamed with freshman Vivian Linto post victories over UTEP and Iowa State.
"Lorraine continues to serve as a great ambassador for the Matadors both on the courts and in the classroom," Victor said. "She got stronger as the fall progressed and her victory over Kemp was among the highlights of the fall."
Among the other CSUN returners, Warren had a strong fall campaign. She earned a doubles victory over Big West rival Long Beach State, then teamed with Cheung to win the consolation side of their bracket with victories over SMU and San Diego State at a tournament in San Diego.
"Jessica is playing some great tennis right now. In a year, she has raised her game from being a lower line-up player to potentially being at the top of our singles line-up. Her maturity has been a breath of fresh air for the program," Victor added.
Sophomore Leslie Changwas another returner to find success. She picked up two victories over LMU in contests that featured 36 games and three sets. Junior Corinne Schnyder, a 2013 ITA Academic All-American, posted victories over Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. The duo then teamed up to score a victory over Portland State. Off the courts, both Chang and Schnyder received ITA Academic All-American honors last year.
"All of our returners have raised their level of play through their confidence and work ethic. They have improved their ability to solve problems. We stress knowing what you can control and they have shown a marked improvement," Victor explained. "The freshmen all bring outstanding attitudes every day and strive for excellence in the classroom and on the court."
In all, CSUN has five true freshmen joining the squad for their first season of intercollegiate tennis: Mickey Hsu, Lin, Kristen Poei, Scout Shutter and Mari Taslagyan. The quintet arrives at Northridge from such locales as Hong Kong, Hawai'I, Hollywood and Taiwan.
During the slate of tournaments, Hsu picked up singles wins over Southern Utah and SMU and had a great win over UTEP in Arizona. One of the rookies' top victories came at the expense of Pepperdine as Hsu and Poei defeated the Waves at the Matador Invitational. In singles action, Poei scored victories over UTEP, Montana and UC Riverside.
"We had three of our top rookies playing in top flights throughout the fall and although they took their lumps, they got stronger and are ready for the spring," Victor added.
Lin and Taslagyan recorded straight-set singles victories over Portland State and Shutter produced singles victories over San Diego State, Washington and San Diego. She also worked with Schnyder to score doubles wins over UTEP and Iowa State and teamed with Lin to defeat a tandem from San Diego.
Criss Rodriguez, who did not participate in the fall campaign, figures to also challenge for a spot in the line-up. She was a state doubles champion during her time at Santa Monica College.
The Matadors' 2014 season starts on Saturday, January 25 with a home match against Westmont. First serve from Matador Tennis Complex is slated for noon. The next day, CSUN will take on the United States Air Force Academy also at noon.
"We are excited to get started. It is fun to be around a great group of young women that want to get better every day," Victor concluded.