Women’s tennis at Saddleback College: how the only two players on the roster learned to hustle

The Saddleback women’s tennis team during their home game this season. Saddleback Athletics/Courtesy

Freshmen Sumari Kritzinger and sophomore Alexa Berg carry the women’s tennis team on their backs, as they are the only two on the team

Alexa Berg and Sumari Kritzinger are the only two players on the women’s tennis team at Saddleback this athletic season. As there was a lack of quantity with teammates, the quality of determination from Berg and Kritzinger was enough for them to make it through all matches. However, their survival was not without difficulty. 

The two student-athletes started their season with only one week of practice with their coach at Saddleback’s new tennis center. Other schools were allowed on campus a semester earlier, according to Berg, leaving the two with the disadvantage of being a month behind with skill-building and strategizing. 

Although they had a loss of practice before the matches started, Kritzinger explained how having a smaller team meant more one-on-one and personal practices during the season. 

“It was actually nice having two players coaching-wise as we got a lot of individual feedback and match play advice,” Kritzinger said. “Our coach, Jay, did a great job at pushing us to become better players during this season.”

With head coach Jay Amos’ coaching style, the two also got the opportunity to understand each other’s gameplay and strategy. 

Understanding their strategies resulted in them creating a system that will give them the most success during a match. Berg described the chances of winning to be “impossible,” with just two players. However, she revealed that working with Kritzinger was the most memorable part of the season. She also adds that the experience helped her improve as a player. 

“Sumari hadn’t played a proper match for well over a year, and she jumped right in and really stepped up,” Berg explained. “I’m super glad I was able to meet her. It can always be tough playing with new people because with doubles you have to work together. You have to cooperate and know how your partner will react.”

Communication and focus played a significant role in the team hustling and make it through a match. During any athletic game, it is essential to know what is happening on your court at all times and that no teammate is in the dark about it. 

Even though their team dropped a match to Cypress College, 7-2, they managed to win two of the three matches played at the Saddleback Tennis Center, according to Saddleback athletics.  Given the lack of players on the team, they two forfeited the six other matches they had later that day. With all the odds not being in their favor, Kritzinger and Burg gave the season their all and impressed everyone watching. 

“I’m proud of the way they have competed,” head coach Jay Amos told Saddleback athletics.  “They show up every day and give it everything they have.”

That is what they continued to do throughout the season. Practicing in the new tennis center, working hard each day, and improving their skill motivates them not to cancel all of their matches and not play this year. 

With Berg and Kritzinger having to carry the entire team’s strength, the season was under consideration to be canceled. However, Saddleback athletics reconsidered and decided to see how the matches would play out, resulting in less pressure on the small team. 

“Not having enough girls was a big bummer, and at one point, it was almost canceled,” Berg said. “I understand that it’s all about who wins, but it was honestly really fun just to get out there and play matches and just kind of have that pressure taken off.”

The main goal for Kritzinger and Berg was to have fun and improve their tennis skill. Both women had the opportunity to take a step back and not deal with the specific pressures of being a student-athlete, and both reflected on their season by emphasizing one key takeaway; growth.

“I would say that one key takeaway from this season would be growth,” Kritzinger revealed. “Because of our small team, we did not get qualified to compete properly. This season was all about improving and working on both our strengths and weaknesses.”