Numbers don't always tell the whole story. Cayla Cross and her teammates 2012 final statistics for the North Carolina A&T Women's Tennis team show that they finished the year 2-14 overall and 1-5 in conference play. But the stats don't tell the full story of their performance.
"The girls played as hard as they could. They did the best job they could do, and I'm proud of them," said A&T head coach James Dunwoody, who finished his seventh year at the helm of the program this spring. "The girls went through the season as professionals. They worked hard, they worked as a team; they helped me out a lot."
North Carolina A&T fell short of their goal of making the MEAC tournament and producing a 10-win season. But there were strides made. The Aggies won three times as many singles victories this spring than they did in 2011, and increased their doubles wins by more than tenfold.
Most of the winning this season was also done by some of the youngest players on the team, boding well for future seasons.
A&T had three players tie for the team lead in singles wins with sophomore Victorea Austin, sophomore Kimberly Stalling and first-year junior April Burrage winning four apiece. Stalling led the team with three MEAC singles wins. Austin had a team-best three-match singles winning streak from Jan. 29-Feb. 10, including recording the only point for the Aggies at Davidson. Burrage, who walked onto the team in the fall, combined with freshman Kenya Colbert to lead the team with six double wins.
The duo went 6-6 at the No. 3 spot, and also posted a three-game doubles matches winning streak this season. They also captured three MEAC doubles victories.
"(April and Kenya) were very respectable in doubles during the whole course of the year, and that does not only encompassed MEAC competition, but also out-of-conference competition. They were very competitive in everything they did," Dunwoody said.
Where the Aggies struggled was in the category of picking up critical points. Dunwoody was pleased with their overall effort and dedication, but saw the need for more confidence and precision in their execution. Those skills can be developed for next season over the summer and in the fall.
He said that each student-athlete has committed to working on specific skills over the summer in order to be even more competitive in 2013. Colbert will be working on maintaining rallies and sustaining a high level of play. Austin will be working on building up her confidence and avoiding hitting short balls. Stalling will be working on developing her upper body strength and developing her muscle mass. Cayla Cross will be working on her serve and her on-court disciple. Burrage will be working on her backhand.
Overall, he is also looking to step up the conditioning side of their preparations for next year.
"I've got to make sure when the season starts next year, I've got to be a little bit more involved with the training room," he said, adding that he'd like to see more strength development and conditioning for his student-athletes. "Next year, I'm going to be a lot more involved with what they're doing down in the training room. I want a lot more running."
But in addition to personal growth and development, Dunwoody knows it's through strong recruiting that will help keep the program on an upward trajectory.
Dunwoody is expecting to bring in some highly talented recruits for the 2013 team, in addition to welcoming back all of the 2012 team (except for senior Azeib Nigatu).
"I want to bring in a fresh 1 and 2 and I want to move the rest of them to 4, 5, and 6," said Dunwoody. "Cayla, and Kimberly and that group, I want to move them to where they need to be so they can win."