Well-rounded athlete brings leadership to team

The senior from Overland Park, Kansas wasn’t just a tennis player. Ceara Boldridge was an all-around athlete at one point in her life. She was a dancer, she played a little softball, basketball, ran track all four years of high school and also participated in some gymnastics. Boldridge may be know to be a great tennis player, but the main thing she wanted to be growing up was a gymnast. Boldridge mainly did tumbling and says she really loved it because she stayed fit that way. At dance recitals she would perform tumbling routines with her group. Boldridge has three siblings, which all tried playing tennis but she says all three of her siblings did not like it. Her sisters are now big volleyball players and her little brother is a basketball and baseball player. She started playing tennis around first grade. She played for a couple years, but was forced to put tennis on hold. Boldridge didn’t play tennis until middle school and has been playing ever since. Her favorite tennis players are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. When Boldridge got to high school, she was a member of the track team. She did high jump and triple jump, but was best at triple jump, so she ended up quitting high jump and just sticking with triple jump. “I qualified for state twice. But, unfortunately, I had bad meets both times, so I didn’t win,” she said. Her personal record was around 35 feet in triple jump. Ever since Boldridge’s mother randomly signed her up for tennis lessons, she loved it and never wanted to stop playing. “I’m really enjoying tennis a lot more this year. Just because we have a full-time coach, who really knows what he’s doing and really understands both the technical and psychological parts of tennis. That really helps us a lot, because most people don’t understand how tough tennis is mentally. Our record right now is 8-5, and we’ve never come close to even winning eight games,” she said. Boldridge says she really doesn’t have any pre-game rituals besides just listening to music that pumps her up and gives her motivation, but she said she has noticed one thing she does that her other teammates don’t. “Well, I am the only one on the team who wears the long Nike socks when we wear our shorts. My teammates normally wear low-cut socks, but I will be only one to wear the longer ones,” Boldridge said. Boldridge has improved tremendously over the years, but mainly gives credit to her coach. She feels like she has gotten a lot better because of coach Chris Canady. Coach Canady expresses his appreciation for having a player like Ceara. “Well, Boldridge has been the most consistent player, in terms of her effort and energy. I use the word professionalism to describe her because she’s always where she’s supposed to be. She’s always on time, and she’s been a really good leader for our team,” Canady said. Coach Canady says, when it comes to matches, Boldridge isn’t one of those players he necessarily has to worry about. “In matches, there are six matches going on at one time, so as a tennis coach, we can’t be on every court the whole time. There’s certain players who I need to be there for and there are certain players I can trust that the effort and their focus is never going to waiver, and that’s Ceara,” Canady said. “I never have to go near her court because she is by far the hardest fighter that we have and being the first year here and having a senior that’s like that is huge for the team. She’s not the most vocal when it comes to leadership but she leads by example. So that’s been the nicest part about coaching her. That’s not something I anticipated coming in, having a senior with that kind of mentality. She’s also been very coachable. Having me being her third coach in four years, she’s been very open to coaching and very receptive to it, so that’s been nice as well.” Boldridge is finishing out her last year on the tennis team for the Griffons.

Tennis

The Griffons earned its second MIAA victory of the season this past weekend at home against Fort Hays. The Griffons found success in their doubles matches, winning all three. Sarah Giraldo and Yasmine El Ghazi dominated their opponents, winning in the No. 1 spot, 8-2. The Griffons' Denise Chiao and Kayla Dysart finished out the doubles matches with a 9-7 victory. The Griffons' only losses came in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Meara Smith won her match 6-1, 7-6, and Yasmine El Ghazi beat her opponent 6-1 and 6-0. This was the first time this year playing at home. Coach Chris Canady believes that overall, they had a pretty good weekend. “It’s nice to be on campus. It’s our first home conference match in about 10 years. It’s nice to create a better atmosphere so that more people can come out and watch,” Canady said. Sophomore El Ghazi, had mutual feelings. “I love playing at home. Getting to play in front of your friends is nice. You feel more comfortable playing at home. It gives you more motivation. And, don’t get beat at home; we try to make sure we protect our home court,” El Ghazi said. Canady talked about some things that he thought went well against Fort Hays. “We played doubles well. We won all three doubles and honestly, I think everyone did a good job handling the adversity of winning a lot of first sets very easily. The second sets were very close, but most of the girls were able to pull out close matches and it got a little tougher than they expected," Canady said. Canady is proud that his players are learning to close out matches when they know they’re better than somebody and believes that this win against Fort Hays was a big one for the Griffons. “It’s big because I don’t know the last team we’ve beat Fort Hays it’s been at least seven years, and I heard it could be as long as 15 years since we’ve beat them. Now to have two conference wins, it sets us in a great position to really make the conference tournament for the first time, again in probably six or seven years.” “It’s also a big win because we knew we're the better team and the girls handled that well. They haven’t been in a position where they know they’re better than a team and gone out and taken care of business,” Canady said. The Griffons often talk about confidence, stating that that’s one of the biggest challenges they often come across. “The only time we didn’t have confidence was when we were getting closer to winning the matches, they started playing a little more nervous instead of just playing the ball and not the score. It was still very much a step in the right direction for us,” Canady said. The Griffons welcomed South Dakota State to St. Joseph on Sunday afternoon, but fell 6-1 against the Division 1 Jackrabbits. The Griffons were able to claim one victory against South Dakota with Chiao beating Beatriz Souza in the No. 5 spot, 6-1 and 6-1. Western struggled in single and doubles matches. Canady felt that although his team didn’t win, he felt they learned from this experience and actually played pretty well. “South Dakota is good. We did great in doubles, all the doubles were very close; I thought we played better doubles than they did and we just didn’t execute on the big points like we needed to, to pull out some of those matches,” Canady said. “Singles... I think they were just stronger than us; they definitely tried to do what they needed to do to get wins. But South Dakota is just a stronger team than us right now. I think Denise played great. Obviously, she won 6-1, 6-1. She really needed that confidence boost, so it was nice to at least get one win against a Division 1 team. But, we were pleased with that; we knew it was going to be a tough game.” Junior Chiao explains how she felt being the only Griffon to pull out a win against a Division 1 team. “I think for me in that match, I was believing in my shots and being really confident and going for the shots, knowing it was the right shot to take,” she said. “I think I went out there with a different mental state because of course it's South Dakota State, they’re Division 1 and I didn’t really expect to pull out the win, I just wanted to go out there and play the way I knew how to play.” The Griffons are now 5-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play, but plan to improve their record against Washburn and Emporia State this week.

Griffons hope to improve against Lopers

The Griffon Women’s tennis team grabbed its first MIAA win of the season in a 6-3 victory over Lindenwood. The Griffons are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in MIAA play, already matching last season’s MIAA win total and the overall win total from a season ago. The Griffons take on 10-2 Nebraska-Kearney Thursday at 2 p.m. Nebraska-Kearney has been consistent in wins the past few seasons, but the Griffons have certainly put themselves in a position to beat them. The Griffons plan to come in with the same confidence and preparations as they would any other team. “We prepare the same way no matter what the teams record is,” Ceara Boldridge, senior, said. “We can’t let a 10-2 record scare us.” Boldridge went 6-3, 6-0 in singles and 8-5 in doubles. She believes that confidence played a big part in the ways she played. “I personally have more confidence in doubles match, and if I keep the confidence, that will help me get better and better; confidence is what I struggled with in doubles match,” Boldridge said. The Griffons haven’t had much success against Kearney, but coach Chris Canady and his team know it’s going to take a lot more effort to come out with a win. “It’s always hard in tennis to know anything about any team because we can’t do much scouting or anything, but based on their record and some of their wins they’re definitely one of the better teams in our conference, so it’s going to be a tough match... but we don’t really have any mutual opponents so it’s hard to see where we gage, but they’re definitely a good team,” Canady said. Canady also hopes that his team will find a way to keep building after both wins and losses. “I feel like they kind of took it easy a little bit, so hopefully this will fire something more and give us a little more confidence going into this week,” Canady said. As the Griffons continue to show improvement, Kayla Dysart, senior, will make sure they approach each game with the same confidence, energy and mentality. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Dysart said. Dysart and Denise Chiao were down in doubles 7-1 and came back and won that match. Canady says she is one of the players that does well most of the time, but to see her come back from 7-1 was really impressive and he hopes to see her continue to improve. “She played in singles against a girl she has never beat before and beat her 6-2, 6-1, so she really stepped up, which is really good cause she struggled against Rockhurst and it’s good to see her bounce back against Lindenwood like that,” Canady said. The Griffons understand that this game against Nebraska-Kearney will be a tough battle, but playing at home should help add some excitement to this game. “We think we’ll probably have a good amount of people to come and watch, and that helps us play better,” Boldridge said. Dysart believes her team is playing really well right now. “Nebraska-Kearney is a team that continues to grow,” Dysart said. “But, I think everyone’s out there trying their hardest; even when we lose we always fight as hard as we can, so we hope to carry that into this game.”

Griffons prepare to turnaround program

The Griffon Women’s Tennis team went 2-0 in the preseason. With those two wins, they’re looking forward to a great opportunity at qualifying this year. The Griffons were joined by a new full-time head coach, Chris Canady, and have already seen some great improvements all around. Senior Ceara Bulridge played in all 15 matches last year, finishing with a team high 6-9 overall record in singles play. She is looking to improve that record this upcoming season. “I really want to win as many single matches as possible. There are so many things that Coach Canady has taught me that if I knew last year, I would have done better,” Bulridge said. Bulridge has some high hopes for her team and is hoping for a great outcome her senior year. “I think we will get very far in the MIAA tournament, but qualifying is the first step and I think we will qualify this year,” Bulridge said. The Griffons have struggled a bit over the past years, but the players really feel like Coach Canady has helped them improve in many ways. “If you compare last year to this year, I feel like I’ve improved a lot just with Coach Canady,” Bulridge said. Junior Denise Chiao played in all 15 matches last year for the Griffons, going 2-12 in singles. She has also seen some improvement playing under Coach Canady. “I feel like I’ve improved a lot so far, during the preseason and even now; knowing that I can do better during matches is exciting,” Chiao said. Some of the Griffons have played under three different coaches in the past year but they seemed to find a way to adjust to each one of them. “I don’t think going from coach to coach was really that bad, I think it was really adjustable. I think the biggest thing is just change, but it wasn’t too big of a change,” Chiao said. Coach Canady gives an outlook on his team and shares some excitement about the little time he’s been here at Western. “I think with the first two matches of the fall season is certainly nice to start off 2-0. We beat William Jewel. I wasn’t here yet, but I can see from afar that they had gotten better because that was the first time they beat William Jewel in a while,” Canady said. “Against Baker, that was kind of one of those matches where we were better than them, but we did a really good job of coming out and beating them. We didn’t really mess around, so it’s a good start, its been awhile since they’ve had that." This team is looking for a complete turnaround, but understands that it’s going to take some improving starting in practice. Canady tells us what he expects this season. “Our expectations are not to set any goals when it comes to match wins, but we’re trying to improve upon what we do on a daily basis, especially coming into this situation. The fact they haven’t had much success over the last several years, I really didn’t want to focus on winning matches but I want to focus on just improving the team, our environment and really teaching them how to work and take pride in what they’re doing and being a Griffon,” Canady said. Canady believes that all his players play some key role on this team because in tennis, you have to win at every position. “Having a really good player doesn’t matter that much. Your number six player winning is worth the same amount as your number one player winning,” Canady said. Canady has high hopes for Ceara Bulridge. He believes she has improved dramatically since he’s been here and thinks that having a senior that has developed like she has will be big. The Griffons face Maryville this weekend for their season opener. Maryville has only one returning player. The Griffons lost to them 0-9 last year. Canady says that he really doesn’t know what to expect because they have only one returning player and a whole new lineup. “We’re going to just have to find out because in tennis, there is no way to scout or anything like that, so I have no concept of how good they’re going to be,” Canady said. “We’re excited though, the girls are excited and it’s going to be a fun year.”

New tennis coach

Tennis is not a part-time job now that the Griffons have their first full-time head coach in school history. Recently hired head coach Chris Canady brings a wide variety of skills and experiences to both the team and the athletic department. Canady played and coached Division II tennis in the MIAA conference for Southwest Baptist University. He is also the co-owner and general manager of Dynamic Correspondence Sports Training in Bethel Park, Pa., as well as the director of high performance for Upper St. Clair Tennis Development in Pittsburgh. The Griffons’ former coach, Tom Smith, agreed to coach the team while the athletic department pursued the perfect and permanent fit for the head coaching job. According to Western’s athletic director, Kurt McGuffin, Canady was the right person for the position. “When you are looking at a person for a job you look at fit,” McGuffin said. “Canady is from southwest Missouri; he played in our conference and has Division I coaching experience.” Although Canady is very involved with various aspects of tennis around Pennsylvania, there are professional and personal aspects that led him to Missouri Western. “Professionally, I wanted to get back into collegiate tennis, but I was waiting for the perfect fit," Canady said. "[Kurt] McGuffin demonstrated a level of commitment and professionalism that made me very confident in the direction of Western tennis and the athletic department as a whole. I also want to be closer to my family, especially my newborn baby niece, Kate." Canady will be using his experiences and resources to help shape the Griffons for the upcoming and future seasons. “Smith did a good job recruiting while he was there, but the main focus will be recruiting athletes to compete at a high level,” Canady said. “To do that, I will be recruiting internationally, which is all about contacts.” McGuffin also believes that Canady’s resources will be an advantage for the team. “He has many connections both at home, in Division I and internationally,” McGuffin said. “Canady will also have access to four and a half scholarships, instead of the previous amount of three, allowing him to extend more scholarship money to students, specifically those who are international or out-of-state.” The Griffons are excited about the new coach and what he can bring to the team, including Ceara Boldridge. “He has much more experience with the game and will be able to push us in a winning direction,” Boldridge said. “Since he has played the game, he will also understand how to help players with the mental aspect of tennis.” Although the regular season does not begin until the spring, Canady already has goals set for the year. “The number one goal is to change the culture and direction of the team, which Coach Smith has started, by creating an environment that raises the level of expectations,” Canady said. Coach Canady will begin changing Griffon culture once the season begins against the Maryville University Saints in February during the spring semester.