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Technology leads to championships for LBSU tennis

The internet has changed the world in many ways over the last 15 years, but women’s tennis college recruiting probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

But when explaining why Long Beach State’s roster, that has won three consecutive Big West titles, has four times as many players from England than California, along with representatives from Australia, France and Germany, one must point to webcams, e-mails and Web sites.

“International players on college tennis teams is nothing new,” said LBSU head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello. “What has changed is that it is much less of a gamble than it used to be. I can now go on the Internet and send e-mail to prospective players, watch videos of them playing, and look on Web sites to compare rankings from one player to another. So the Internet has given me more information on international players.”

The recent surge in international players coming to The Beach started six years ago when students passed the Beach Pride Referendum, which gave more money to the athletic department to upgrade facilities and scholarships.

Hilt-Costello saw her scholarships double thanks to the referendum, going from four to eight. The increase in scholarships allowed Hilt-Costello to focus more of her attention overseas, and in doing so, she was able to bring in higher quality talent than what she could find in California.

LBSU’s All-American candidate, sophomore Hannah Grady, is the perfect example of how technology and an increase in scholarships have brought in top talent.

“It was pretty much luck,” said Grady. “I wanted to come to America and I had some friends on [LBSU] and they e-mailed me, telling me there was an extra scholarship.”

Grady then e-mailed Hilt-Costello, telling her she was interested in coming to Long Beach. Even though the fall semester had already begun, Grady enrolled at LBSU for the spring semester, which allowed her to play for the 49ers in 2006.

The Coventry, England native went on to have one of the greatest seasons in LBSU tennis history. She finished the year ranked No. 53 nationally in singles with a 19-6 record and was ranked as the No.7 freshman in the country. In doubles, with fellow Brit Jessica Weeks as her partner, the two combined for a 21-2 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

With her accomplishments, Grady was named the Big West Freshman of the Year and Big West Player of the Year.

Grady is looking to repeat the success she had last season, but is more interested in team success than individual accolades.

“It is a goal for me to get back to the NCAA Tournament and improve my ranking,” Grady said. “What I have more interest in is the team and for us to win another Big West championship.”

The prospect of the 49ers defending their title is bright, with all of last year’s players returning, plus, Hilt-Costello has added German Denise Liebschner to the squad. Coming into the year, LBSU (1-1) was ranked as the No. 27 team in the country.

Off the court, the international squad has bonded together as they continue to adjust to a new school and culture.

“Five of us live together in the dorms,” said sophomore Katy Williams, who is from Stevenage, England. “It feels more like home and we are all there

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