Carbo loading: Griz add Spaniard to roster
Nov. 12, 2013
The Montana women's tennis team, veteran with six upperclassmen on its current seven-player roster, will add its first new player in more than a year when Anabel Carbo Estruch of Tavernes de la Valldigna, Spain, joins the team between semesters.
Carbo has accepted a scholarship offer and will become a Grizzly in January prior to Montana's dual-match season that opens later that month against Washington State and Minnesota at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula.
She is the first player to join the team since current sophomore Mackenzie Rozell in 2012.
Carbo is Steve Ascher's first recruit from Europe, and it accomplishes a goal for the sixth-year coach of adding a player from the part of the world that is producing the top players in the game.
"If you look at the best players in the world right now, they are predominantly European, so that says something about how they are developing their younger players," Ascher said.
"The players have the opportunity to compete at high-level ITF tournaments, so they are exposed to a higher level of junior competition than players in the States."
Carbo is from the tennis-loving Mediterranean coast of southeastern Spain.
"I've been trying to recruit players from Spain for quite a while, but it's a tough country to get into," Ascher said.
"It's like recruiting Southern California. It's a water culture and warm-weather culture, and just like in the States, going to the mountains and a colder region isn't first and foremost on players' minds."
Carbo, who has been playing tennis since the age of nine, has a half dozen wins over ranked players from her home country in her career. She will arrive in Montana in January with her only other U.S. experience a trip to Florida.
"Montana was important in my decision, because I saw the ranking and education that the students receive every year," Carbo wrote in an email last week.
"Also, I was speaking with the coach, and I connected with him immediately, and that's very important to me. He was talking about the team, and I was seeing some results, and I thought that they are a strong team.
"All this was important in my decision, a perfect tennis coach, a strong tennis team and a natural place to live at the university."
Carbo's addition introduces two dynamics to the team: A quality player joining an experienced squad that lost the Big Sky Conference championship match last spring to Sacramento State and the addition of an international player to a largely American roster.
Montana lost only Heather Davidson from last year's successful team and is built around juniors Sasha Carter, Haley Driver, Precious Gbadamosi and Laurence Pelchat. The team also has the talents of seniors Ashley Mackey and Maddy Murray.
"We're a tight group, and obviously they got even closer this fall, but I think they're excited for a new addition," Ascher said. "This is where our maturity and leadership will really pay off. How quickly can we make Anabel feel comfortable and integrate her into our team?
"The thing I'm aware of with this group, especially after leaving Sac State, is they realize the challenge of becoming a nationally ranked team. Everybody wants that, and in order to do that, we all have to improve.
"For the players, it's about their continued development or the mental aspect. And if I'm doing my job correctly, I'm continuing to recruit better and better players who can immediately get into that mix. Everyone improving together is how we move the program forward."
Out of the seven players on the fall roster, six are from Washington (Carter), California (Mackey), Arizona (Driver), Texas (Murray, Gbadamosi) and Missouri (Rozell). Pelchat is from Quebec.
Count Ascher among those on campus who have bought into President Royce Engstrom's "UM 2020: Building a University for the Global Century."
"We're predominantly American, and I think people out in the community really appreciate that," Ascher said. "I understand the desire to have American players, and we'll continue to do that, but I also like the idea of having two or three international players for the benefit of the rest of the team.
"We're trying to create a learning environment within the program, and international players add a completely different piece to your team. That's how the world operates now. You have to be open-minded in terms of other cultures and what we can learn from people all over the world."
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