April 16, 2014
Jackie Kasler ready for the SECs and more at Auburn (Zach Bland photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Jackie Kasler's game has been on the upswing.
The senior tennis player has been on board at Auburn through the tougher times, like when the Tigers weren't ranked nationally her freshman year, to a 68th ranking her sophomore year, to a 25th ranking her junior year to, now, a 23rd ranking heading to the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Missouri.
She'll look to provide experience and know-how when Auburn meets Kentucky at 8 a.m. Thursday in a first-round match. She knows of what she speaks. Her 162 combined wins are the fourth most in school history.
Kasler says Auburn has a score to settle. Kentucky beat Auburn this year. But she knows all about rebounding. She's seen it her four years with the Tigers, the last three with Lauren Longbotham Meisner as her coach.
"We were a young team when I got here, and we didn't believe in ourselves that much," said Kasler. "Now, I think we're confident, we have a lot of belief, we have a great support system from our coach.
"She allows us to play our game. She makes the best to what our game brings to the table. I think confidence is such a huge issue. I'm so much more confident, and I think the coach has a lot to do with that."
"She's intense, but she's really fun to be around," Kasler said. "I don't know if she can care in us too much, but she invests in us so much. She wants us to succeed."
Auburn is 16-7 overall and 6-7 in the SEC. Kentucky is 15-10 overall and 5-8 in the league.
Kasler says Auburn could be better.
"This season has had its ups and downs," she said. "I feel like we're on the brink of something great. Our best tennis has yet to come. I'm hoping we'll peak at the right time. Coach always tells us we need to peak in April at the SECs.
"Last year, even though we had a really good year, I think we peaked early and kind of leveled out. Now, I feel like we haven't hit our best tennis. I feel that's going to happen."
It could happen in the SECs, but even if it doesn't, Auburn will have a chance to make an impact in the NCAA Tournament, an event in which the Tigers will surely qualify.
"Hopefully, we'll put ourselves in the best position for the NCAAs this week," said Kasler.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine