Riverland women’s tennis;br; Mission: Tucson

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 5, 2000

The six members of the Riverland women’s tennis team bound for nationals in Tuscon, Ariz.

Friday, May 05, 2000

The six members of the Riverland women’s tennis team bound for nationals in Tuscon, Ariz. were sitting around Thursday, talking about packing less than 24 hours before their departure from Minneapolis International Airport.

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Each was in a varying state of readiness, save one, Renae Bebler, who told her teammates, "I haven’t even looked at a suitcase yet."

But it wasn’t as if the trip hadn’t been on Bebler’s mind.

Bebler went on the Internet to find that by the time the Blue Devils begin competition Sunday in the Division III National Junior College Athletic Association’s women’s tennis championships, the temperature should be approaching 105 degrees.

"It’s supposed to be real hot the days we’re playing," said Bebler, who, as the team’s No. 1 singles player, has been hot herself of late.

"She’s coming up big right now," Coach Suzy Hebrink said. "She’s stronger than ever."

In the late-1980s, Hebrink took part in two national tennis competitions as a member of Austin Community College.

She and Bebler, the only Blue Devil making a return trip to nationals, know well what to expect.

"I remember the competition being really, really tough," Hebrink said.

"It’s a higher level of play," Bebler said.

For Rachael Burzinski and Brooke Holets, who make up Riverland’s No. 3 doubles team, the competition is simply the end of a wild ride.

Both Burzinski and Holets were recruited by Hebrink to help fill out Riverland’s roster. Neither had played competitive tennis before this season.

"It’s the icing on the cake," said Burzinski, a freshman who passed up her senior year of high school eligibility to compete as a Blue Devil in basketball. "It’s a nice way to end the year for sure."

Bebler and Hebrink agree that the reason Riverland is taking part in nationals is the sudden rise of the team’s inexperienced players.

"We’ve got people who haven’t played much that picked it up real fast," Bebler said.

"Their margin for improvement was huge," Hebrink said, "and in two months they improved tremendously."

The national competition begins Sunday and runs through Thursday. With a day off in Tuscon on Saturday, some of the Riverland players talked about relaxing and catching some rays in the 100 degree heat.

You can bet Bebler packed plenty of shorts and tank tops.

Whether or not she left any room in her bags to store hardware, she didn’t say.

Riverland lineup*

No. 1 singles, Renae Bebler

No. 2, Jen Ankeny

No. 3, Alyson Stier

No. 4, Anne Hackbart

No. 5, Rachel Burzinski

No. 6, Brooke Holets

No. 1 doubles, Bebler and Ankeny

No. 2, Stier and Hackbart

No. 3, Burzinski and Holets

* Each singles player and doubles team will compete in a double-elimination flight at the nationals.