Last year’s women’s tennis team missed competing at nationals by half a point. This year, a strong lineup and new head coach aim to guarantee a trip to the Big Dance.

Winning the NJCAA Region IV tournament won’t come as a surprise to this team that has strong players from top to bottom.

“We have three returners and new blood, so there’s a good balance. I think we’ll do really well. We’re strong all through the lineup, and everyone is comfortable with each other already,” said head Coach Breanna Vollan, taking the reins this season.

Vollan was named head coach this year. A former Cyclone, Vollan competed two years at the college (2015, 2016) maintaining a perfect record her freshman year for a region championship and Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference honors. She has coached at her alma mater, Chicago Christian High School, but this is her first foray into college coaching. Although still young, she’s excited and ready to take her team far.

“It’s going to be a great year. I love to play tennis, so this is a blast. I’m having the time of my life. Assistant Coach [Kathleen] Lee is a great resource. She’s a walking tennis encyclopedia. I’ll learn from her, and I know experience will help me be a better coach,” Vollan said.

Last year’s squad went 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference. One of Vollan’s goals is to finish the season with a winning record, and they have the lineup to do just that.

Jasmine Abunaim (Sandburg) is back and stronger this season. Sisters Mary and Audrey Stocklen (Shepard) also return, bringing their hard work ethic and calm demeanor to the court. Audrey was a region champion at No. 6 singles last season. The three newcomers include Brooke Zielke (Shepard), Serene Itani (Shepard) and Karli Schmitt (Stagg). Zielke will battle for the No. 1 singles slot while Itani and Schmitt will hold their own on the court.

The team is excited and ready to the start the season, which begins Saturday, Aug. 25, at Illinois Valley Community College. The Cyclones play their home opener on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2:45 p.m., against conference rival Oakton Community College.