In the midst of her senior year, Ricquel Ramsbottom is relishing her last competitive tennis experience.
Leading the MSUM tennis team as the lone senior and upperclassman, she has established herself as the Dragon’s mentor.
“At first, going into the season, I was a bit nervous,” Ramsbottom said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, no other upperclassmen. This might be weird.’ But we’ve all gotten along so well.”
Originally a student from Montana State-Billings, Ramsbottom was a quiet, shy person in the eyes of MSUM tennis head coach Oliver Summers.
“She seemed like she was pretty introverted, now she’s the complete opposite,” Summers said. “She’s the most outgoing person on the team.”
With the tennis experience Ramsbottom has gained, her vocal leadership has grown as well.
“She definitely gets people fired up. Whether it’s encouraging her teammates or when she is playing,” Summers said. “She’s also our captain. She is the main leader, after the coaches. We rely on her heavily to be that leader.”
Ramsbottom said the leadership has come with ease due her comfort level in her surroundings.
“This is my third year as a Dragon, so I’m comfortable with the team,” Ramsbottom said. “They’re so great and mature; I don’t feel like I have to keep the youngins in line”
In a way, she acts as the big sister. Ramsbottom said she isn’t the best overall player but helps out with technique whenever possible.
“If anyone comes to me with questions, I like to be there to listen,” Ramsbottom said. “Again making sure everyone is gelling well, and any input I can give in any situation.”
When it comes to keeping everyone in line, Ramsbottom said she organizes a lot of off-the-court activities, which has included bowling as a group.
“I tried having a game night at my house but not everyone was into board games, so we made food instead,” Ramsbottom said. “I love finding little opportunities to hang out as a team.”
Off to a good start, the Dragons own a 4-1 record as of Feb. 23. The only loss came against the reigning Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference champions, Augustana.
Ramsbottom said the team’s hot start should give them a confidence boost.
“I’ve said this to our team and others as well, I truly believe this is the best tennis team I’ve been a part of,” she said. “We have a really good chance to do really well. I couldn’t ask for a better start.”
Despite the loss, Summers said the team has shown it will be competitive this season and credits Ramsbottom for leading the charge.
“Ricquel has been instrumental in pushing everyone, getting them on the court more, and being very vocal about getting fired up for the matches,” he said.
During spring break, the Dragons will make a trip down to Orlando, Florida, where MSUM will play five games in a three-day span. Being able to play schools from outside the Midwest will challenge the team, but the goal is to get everyone plenty of court time.
“A lot of the time, we play tougher schools from the east coast. Being able to play schools with different playing styles that maybe we’re not used to,” Ramsbottom said. “We get a lot of match time in and that really helps set us for the conference championship.”
On the road to the conference tournament, Ramsbottom wants to improve her doubles play to where her singles play is at now.
In past years, I’ve had good partners, but I’m a stronger singles player than doubles,” Ramsbottom said. “Our doubles play has been better than years past. My partner Emma (Zamora) and I are playing really well together.”
Currently, the pair leads MSUM with a 4-1 record in doubles. Additionally, Ramsbottom’s 4-1 singles record is atop the team leaderboard, tied with Alexis Konecne.
Ramsbottom said her goal is to finish with the best record she’s ever had in her career, and credits one minor adjustment for recent success.
“In previous years, I’ve played higher up in the ladder but had a worse record (than playing lower),” Ramsbottom said. “This year I’m lower down and playing better.”
Career in review
As the season rolls on, Ramsbottom recognizes her career is approaching an end but can’t see herself walking away from the sport.
She started playing tennis at the age of nine after watching her brother play. It’s also the sport her dad coached her and her brother in. The family bonds made through tennis are deeply rooted in her.
“There has been a lot of ups and downs but I’ll definitely stay involved with the game,” Ramsbotttom said. “I hope that I contributed to the program’s success. I’d love to be involved as an assistant in the future. I’d also like to coach youth tennis players. I’ll be retired, but not quite.”
If coaching doesn’t work out, Ramsbottom said other options exist. She could go to grad school and play for the club team or continue to seek out summer recreational leagues.
Whatever her decision is, one thing is certain: she’s not ready to leave tennis behind.