Randy Halfpap knew what he was getting when he recruited Megan Soderlund to play for his Salisbury tennis team.
He was getting a player that never lost a county match in her last two seasons at Liberty High School, winning a pair of county tournament titles, played in the state tournament three times during her high school career, and won back-to-back Times Girls Tennis Players of the Year awards.
So it isn't much of a surprise to the Sea Gulls coach that the former Lions standout has gotten off to a strong start in her collegiate career. But what's impressed Halfpap the most about Soderlund in her first season is something else — her receptiveness to coaching.
"I'd say almost more so than any of her other peers, whether they be juniors or seniors, she actually does that quite well in regards to the listening and then being able to go out there and execute a gameplan," Halfpap said. "She's done really well for us and we've been very happy with her."
In her first season with the Sea Gulls, Soderlund has primarily been the team's No. 4 singles player and a member of the No. 3 doubles team with senior Allison Lutz.
As a singles player, Soderlund has gone 11-8 with a 5-2 record in Capital Athletic Conference play. And she has certainly exceeded her goal from when she entered Salisbury, which was just to earn a spot on the Sea Gulls' lineup.
"That was my goal coming into playing college tennis, I knew it was going to be more competitive," Soderlund said. "I like the competitiveness of it."
Soderlund has also seen success in doubles play, something she didn't do much of while she was at Liberty. She and Lutz are 13-4 as a duo and Soderlund also has another pair of doubles wins with teammate Megan Knapp.
Halfpap said teaching doubles play is the main thing he and his staff do in the fall to prepare their players for the spring season. And that's because of the inexperience most players have coming in.
"That's probably one of the things she's developed the most over the last six, seven months," Halfpap said. "[Soderlund and Lutz] definitely have bonded very well on the court, which is one of those things that doesn't have to be crucial but if it does happen, it's great."
Soderlund has good strokes and no glaring weaknesses, Halfpap said, but her ability to take advice and apply those teachings is what seperates her. She has done extra hitting with Halfpap and the other Salisbury coaches and she said that has helped.
But learning the style of doubles is where that coaching may be most useful.
"I really, really like playing doubles. It was definitely different," Soderlund said. "It was a completely different game for me. It was a little hard to adjust, but I'm learning."
Soderlund's success has also helped the Sea Gulls fare well as a team this season. They are 13-6 and will face Christopher Newport on Wednesday in the CAC Tournament semifinals. The winner of that match advances to the finals on Saturday.
It will also be another opportunity for Soderlund to keep performing well in her rookie campaign.
"It's been sort of fun to see the improvement she's made from the fall to the beginning of the spring season," Halfpap said. "We've been very impressed."
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