West Virginia freshman Momoko Nagato prepares to return a shot during a WVU tennis match during the 2020-21 season.

West Virginia freshman Momoko Nagato prepares to return a shot during a WVU tennis match during the 2020-21 season. 

Although this year’s West Virginia University tennis team struggled to find its footing in Big 12 play prior to the spring season being canceled, they are hoping the freshmen class will end up being as good as advertised. 

In the midst of a season where the Mountaineers have struggled to compile wins, a key reason for that can be how young and inexperienced this year’s team is. The Mountaineers have three freshmen on the squad, and having to play in the Big 12 as a freshman is easier said than done. 

This group is learning from match-to-match, and this experience is something that should help them later on in their careers here at WVU. These freshmen include Amber Fuller, Momoko Nagato and Nadya Maslova. The young Mountaineers are earning strong experience, but they also bring some talent to the tennis program at WVU. 

“We have three freshmen that all bring an outstanding amount of talent to our program,” head coach Miha Lisac said. “All three of them as a group [makes] it that much more exciting to be bringing in a class that was ranked just outside of the Top 25 nationally.”

Although it has been a rough season for West Virginia, these three have all shown the ability to compete in the Big 12. 

Nagato is a freshman from Abiko, Chiba, Japan, and has been one of the better performers on the team this year. Nagato has been in the No. 2 position for most of the year in singles and has three wins in singles. 

Maslova, from Brooklyn, New York, has been one of the best competitors for the Mountaineers this season. She has three wins from the No. 3 position in singles, but has also battled to multiple three set losses in Big 12 play. 

Fuller, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, has had the least amount of success from all of the freshman but she has still played solid tennis. Fuller has won two singles matches in the No. 4 and No. 6 position earlier in the season. Fuller has gotten better throughout the season, forcing a third set against Kansas State in WVU’s most recent match, but ultimately losing. 

Although the limited success, Lisac is still confident these freshmen are going to have success at WVU. 

“I feel like this is a good spot to be in,” Lisac said. “Yes there is little bit of a learning curve for the freshmen, but I believe that with good leadership and continuing to be dedicated to the process and learning and getting better it doesn’t have to be a long slow learning curve. I think they have all shown in some cases a lot of maturity already.”

Even though the scoreboard might not show it, these freshmen are hoping to eventually put West Virginia tennis in the national conversation as one of the better programs in the Big 12 and one of the better programs in the country. 

Now that the spring season was officially canceled on Wednesday, WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons hopes the coaching staff can build a roster toward the spring. 

“This was a necessary decision because a number of factors have left us unable to field the minimum numbers required for competition,” Lyons said in a statement. “Our coaches and administration will work to increase our roster in preparation for a new season this fall.”

The Mountaineers built a strong foundation with their freshmen class, but the team was still unable to field enough players to compete. Many roster limitations have come from injuries and players entering the transfer portal. 

WVU still had four matches remaining on its schedule and the Big 12 Championship at the end of the month. 

Born in Bowie, Maryland, and attending WVU studying journalism and sports communication. I work with the DA sports section as well as have my own YouTube channel CoreFourSports.