Tennis gets inspired

UA senior Danielle Steinberg serves the ball in a 7-0 team win vs. Portland State at the Robson Tennis Center on April 14. Dani has been a model that we as coaches will use as our model for recruits, said assistant coach Ryan Stotland.

UA senior Danielle Steinberg serves the ball in a 7-0 team win vs. Portland State at the Robson Tennis Center on April 14. “”Dani has been a model that we as coaches will use as our model for recruits,”” said assistant coach Ryan Stotland.

Maggie Simpson

Arizona women’s tennis assistant coach Ryan Stotland thought that only in movies did one player’s heart on the court inspire opposing fans to cheer for them. Until he coached senior Danielle Steinberg, that is.

“”When we went to play Cal in Cal, one of their fans who had some Cal gear on -ÿand Dani had no idea who he was – turned to Dani and started yelling for her after every point, ‘You’ve got it, Steinberg!’ or ‘Let’s go, Steinberg!’…She inspired people on the court because of her passion and I know that after she graduates, no matter what she does, she will be terrific at it because of who she is,”” Scotland said.

It would be an easy matter to focus solely on the on-the-court accomplishments of Steinberg, who is the team’s only senior this year and arguably its strongest leader. Throughout the course of her four-year career, she has triumphed against some of the nation’s top players, gaining recognition from players, coaches, and the Pacific 10 Conference (Steinberg was named Pac-10 Player of the Week this season).

“”Everyone knew she was a force to be reckoned with and now that Danielle’s career has come to an end, several coaches have come forward and told me that she was a great competitor and will be missed by all of them,”” said head coach Vicky Maes. “”The reactions I would hear from fans and opposing coaches when she was playing will always stand out. She gained everyone’s respect through her tenacious effort and undying resilience.””

Those with whom Steinberg has spent a great deal of her time during her career – coaches and players – indicate that many of her most valuable qualities as a player were intangible.

“”A lot of kids come in and ask, ‘What can you do for me?'”” Maes explained. “”Danielle said, ‘Thank you for this amazing opportunity, and what can I do?'””

Steinberg’s tenacity also extended into the classroom. Stotland described conversations he has had with Arizona staff members, several of whom have described Steinberg as the best student-athlete they have ever had.

“”It’s a pretty awe-dropping feat, considering how many years and student-athletes they’ve had,”” he said. “”She has done everything asked and more.ÿShe has been driven and has inspired everyone around her. Her name will still have echoes around the campus when she is gone. Dani has been a model that we as coaches will use as our model for recruits.””

Maes also praised Steinberg’s commitment to her teammates.

“”She sacrificed a lot of time and effort, played through pain … her number-one priority was to get better for the sake of her team and she knew that was going to come at a price,”” Maes said. “”In the end, the payoffs were great for both the team and herself, and I couldn’t be more happy with what she brought to the program.””

Though Steinberg will be the only player Arizona will lose this year, she will return in the capacity of assistant coach, a role that, given Steinberg’s position as team captain and sole senior, teammate Claire Rietsch feels will be a smooth transition for the senior, who was accustomed to taking care of details for the team over the course of the season.

“”She’s really stepped it up this year,”” Rietsch said. “”I think for her, it’ll be really hard because she absolutely loves tennis, and we’ll miss having her in the lineup. We’ll appreciate her input, though, because she’s such a good player, such a smart player.””

Stotland agreed, although he admitted that there is an element of surrendering control of the outcome as a coach.

“”It’s a much more nerve-wracking feeling because you have taught your players all of these things and you just have to hope they do it,”” he said. “”It’s definitely a big change from being on the court and in control of your own destiny.””

Though the rest of the team will remain intact entering the fall season, Stotland acknowledged that the loss of Steinberg will still be a difficult breach to fill.

“”Dani was a coach’s dream to have on the court,”” he said. “”Everybody respects her and she inspires, which is what a born leader does.””

Added Maes: “”I will miss her athletic contributions, of course. As for everything else, she will still be here and so, in many ways, the blow won’t be quite as hard.””

‘Cats represented in NCAA Tournament

On Tuesday, the Arizona men’s tennis team’s bid for the NCAA Tournament was confirmed. ESPNews also announced that the Wildcats (17-5, 2-4 Pac-10) will face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (14-8) in the first round. If they make it to the second round, they will face the winner of the Binghamton/Texas A&M matchup. The first two rounds will take place May 8-9.

Arizona will see numerous familiar faces in this tournament, as nine of its regular-season opponents also qualified for the tournament, including five of Arizona’s six Pac-10 opponents.

On the women’s side, freshman Natasha Marks, bolstered by her second-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships tournament last weekend, will also be heading to College Station, Texas, to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Marks will be competing as an “”at-large selection.”” The at-large selection will occur May 20-25 upon the conclusion of the team matches.