Strive for greatness: Recapping the MSUM tennis team’s outstanding 2018 season

John Miller

The 2018 season featured many highs and few lows for the MSUM women’s tennis team.

The Dragons finished at 16-4 overall and 9-2 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Nine is a program record for conference victories.

It was the Dragons’ best season under head coach Oliver Summers and the most enjoyable for the team’s lone senior, Ricquel Ramsbottom.

“How well we all got along, we had a lot of fun and challenges,” Ramsbottom said. “I couldn’t ask for a
better senior year. Everything about it was awesome.”

To cap off the stellar season, MSUM made it to the NSIC championship match for the first time in program history after defeating Winona State 5-3 in the semifinals. Augustana topped the Dragons 5-0 in the finals, but Ramsbottom still viewed MSUM’s run as a success.

“In the fall, we had a team dinner and were going around saying some of our favorite moments. I said our best is yet to come,” Ramsbottom said. “When we clinched that victory against Winona, that was probably the best moment in my tennis career. We wanted that so bad. It came together really nicely and that was by far my favorite moment of this season.”

MSUM started the year scorching hot, going 10-2 through the first 12 matches, with four of the team’s wins coming over spring break in Orlando, Florida.

The team’s Florida excursion was one of Summer’s favorite memories from the year.

“Normally when we go there, we try to find high-level competition, and we win some and lose some,” Summers said.

“But to go there and win four of the five matches and even be very competitive with the one we lost, that was a really good spring break trip.” 

The Dragons remained hot after returning from Orlando, winning four of their next five matches to end the regular season.

Leading the Dragons under Summers were Ramsbottom and sophomore Alexis Konecne. Ramsbottom spent her senior campaign playing lower in the lineup and posted a singles record of 13-4, a vast improvement over her 7-11 mark in 2017.

“This year I played five, so I didn’t have as many tough opponents, but I was still at my level where I thought I was playing well and I was able to get those wins, and it just shows how deep our team was this year,” Ramsbottom said. “I have no problem with that, this is awesome. I was really happy to play at that level and do well.”

Konecne also had the best season of her young career with a singles record of 16-1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had two players that have been so successful in singles,” Summers said. “It’s been amazing to see their improvement over the year … they were dominant from the very beginning.”

The future

When Summers began coaching at MSUM, he said he wanted to build the tennis program into a dynasty, and believes this season was a step toward that vision becoming reality.

“Every step along the way has been getting closer to that,” Summers said. “Every year we’ve been improving, and every year we improve then we get more notoriety and get more players interested in the school … Our recruiting arm reaches farther around the country.”

Other than the graduating Ramsbottom, the Dragons will retain all their starters next season. Though she will no longer be part of the team, Ramsbottom trusts the process and believes the team will continue taking strides in the right direction.

“The upcoming recruiting class will definitely have some big shoes to fill, but I believe the program will just get better and better,” Ramsbottom said. “I can’t wait to see where the program goes in the future.”

Ramsbottom currently serves as an assistant coach for the Fargo Davies girls tennis team and is certain she’ll remain involved in the sport.

“I’ll probably play some summer tournaments,” Ramsbottom said. “My doubles partner, Emma (Zamora), is staying here this summer too. I’m definitely going to keep playing and probably coaching too.”

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