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Experienced Group Returns To Lead Eagles

Sophomores Whitney Kiser and Nicole Shifflett return to the courts this spring for the women's tennis team.

BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater College women's tennis team returns an experienced group to the courts this season as the Eagles look to live up to their lofty preseason ranking in the ODAC poll.

"Ranked No. 2, that's the highest we've been ranked in the preseason since I've been here," said Eagles' head coach Jordon Robinson of his team's ranking in the ODAC preseason poll. "We have an experienced core group of players and we're deeper than we've been in the past. Our No. 5 through No. 8 players could go any direction. We're excited about the upcoming season."

Bridgewater returns its top four players from a year ago. Sophomores Jamiah Lewis, Whitney Kiser and Nicole Shifflett all received valuable experience in their first year in the program.

Lewis returns at No. 1 singles where she posted a 7-4 conference mark in 2017. Joining Lewis at the top of the ladder is Whitney Kiser. Kiser was named second-team All-ODAC at No. 2 singles after finishing with a 9-2 record against conference foes.

The middle spots in the ladder feature Shifflett at No. 3 and junior Stephanie Barton at No. 4. Shifflett finished the 2017 season just below the .500 mark in conference play with a 5-6 record. Two of her six losses were in three sets. Barton has been a fixture in the singles lineup the past two seasons and a year ago finished with a 7-4 mark in conference play.

"The top four is probably going to be the same," said Robinson. "We're young with three sophomores up there, but all three gained valuable experience in their first year. Those three, along with Stephanie, are battle tested."

A four-way battle is shaping up for the final two spots on the ladder between seniors Shannon Quinn and Ashley Price, sophomore Rachel Zarin and first-year player Rachel Crawford.

Quinn has the most match experience of the group as she posted a 6-3 conference record at No. 6 singles. Price has also seen action during her three seasons in the program.

"It's a pretty good battle among those four for the final two singles spots," said Robinson. "All four are capable of stepping in and playing well and all four played well in the fall."

Doubles will have a different look this season.

Kiser and Shifflett worked at No. 1 doubles during their first year, but this season Lewis appears ready to step up and join Kiser at the No. 1 spot. "Jamiah has improved so much as a doubles player since last season. She played with Whitney at No. 1 in the fall and they played well together," said Robinson.

Shifflett will play at No. 2 doubles where her likely partner will be Barton. "Stephanie is a very good doubles player. She played at No. 3 last year, but moving up shouldn't be a problem." Barton was a second-team All-ODAC pick at No. 3 a year ago with 2017 graduate Whitney Cash.

The No. 3 doubles team will be either Quinn-Price or Zarin-Crawford.

"Quinn and Price have played a lot of doubles together during the past three years. The two Rachels played together in the fall and looked pretty good," Robinson added.

While the team is excited about its prospects for the upcoming season, Robinson notes that finishing near the top of the conference will be no easy chore.

"Teams in the conference are improving. I think the top six teams in the ODAC will all be pretty solid," noted Robinson.

Bridgewater opens its season Sunday when the Eagles host Mary Baldwin University. The match will be played indoors at the Doug Will Tennis Center in Bridgewater beginning at 5:00 p.m.