Freshman stands out in tennis doubles

Sports Information photo: Freshman Katelyn Caniford has adjusted well to collegiate tennis.Sports Information photo: Freshman Katelyn Caniford has adjusted well to collegiate tennis.Transitioning from a high school sports team to a collegiate team can be a challenge for any player, but not for freshman tennis player Katelyn Caniford.

With a doubles record of 8-3 and 2-0 in singles, she is on track to be a standout on the women’s tennis team in years to come.

The Lakers had a strong 2010-11 season, finishing 18-6 overall. But with the graduation of star Kim Ezzo, the team had some questions heading into 2011-12.

The team is now 9-5, winning its last two matches against Clarion and Robert Wesleyan, with a perfect score of 9-0 for both matches. The Lakers are feeling a burst of momentum picking up two consecutive shutout wins after losing three straight matches.

Caniford has been rising to the challenge as one of three incoming freshmen. Although she has had two separate doubles partners, junior Jenna Raynor and senior Courtney Conway, she is stepping up and becoming a team player.

“The first couple of days of practice were rough, and I realized that I really did need to step up my game,” said Caniford. “It was definitely a hard transition from high school sports to college. It got easier though, and my team helped me out a lot. They were very supportive.”

Caniford plays mostly doubles, which adds a different level of difficulty.

“It’s not that I don’t like singles, I just really like working with someone. Being alone isn’t as fun to me. I like having someone to talk to and help me out,” Caniford said.

Caniford, along with freshman Sarah Baich, sophomore Caroline Bristol, junior Rebecca Haener and sophomore Courtney Thompson have all performed well in doubles, helping the team reach more victories the closer it gets to the postseason.

“We are doing pretty well. We have had a lot of close matches so far, so we may have to make up for that. But we have five matches left, and those will help us to go to postseason,” Caniford said.

Among all the colleges and universities in Division II, Caniford chose Mercyhurst to further both her academic and sports career.

“I really loved the campus. I knew it was the place,” said Caniford. “It wasn’t too far from home, because I live two hours away in Ohio. I really liked the team too, they were so nice and welcoming. I just knew it was perfect for me.”

The Lakers are working hard, practicing hard and looking forward to going far in the postseason in a few weeks.

“I would definitely say I am a team player. The team overall is very important to me. I love to motivate anyone I can, and I feel we all work really well together. We are looking forward to see how far we can go,” Caniford said.

The Lakers have five road matches left on the schedule before the Pennsylvania State Athletic Association (PSAC) playoffs begin April 17.