Despite the piles of snow and freezing winds, the spring sports season is already underway. While some teams are stuck in the bays waiting for the snow to melt and their seasons to start, others have been able to navigate the poor conditions and are start their spring campaigns indoors. Men’s tennis is one such team.
The men went 2-1 during their fall campaign, with wins against Bard and Union College. They also competed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament where sophomore Nick Litsky advanced to the semifinals. Vassar has only one returning senior but will look to a strong core of sophomores and juniors to help carry the load.
The Brewers began their season on February 7 in Massachusetts against Clark University. Playing at the Paxton Sports Centre, an impressive indoor sporting complex in Paxton, Massachusetts, the men were able to shut down Clark 5-0. This proved a good win for a competitive men’s team looking to build on its success last fall. While they did accumulate some good wins over the course of the season, they fell to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Liberty League Tournament.
Perhaps the biggest change last year, however, came from the top. Men’s head coach Alex Wong was brought on in the middle of the year in what was a bit of an adjustment period. Wong gave his input on the season in an emailed statement. “The team handled [the coaching transition] well and we were focused from the beginning. We always have a goal of winning the Liberty League Championship so in that sense, we fell short of our goal, but I am still proud of the way that improved and competed.”
Going into the offseason, the men knew exactly what they had to improve. “One of our main focus points last year and this year has been doubles. We have been working hard from the first day of practice on improving our doubles strategy and mentality. We know that this is crucial to our success this year,” stated Coach Wong. Apart from improving their doubles games, the men have been working hard on their fitness and conditioning. “We’ve also had condition after practices and lifts with Cam, so we’ve been getting into top physical condition as well,” stated Cooper.
Cooper added how crucial doubles was to success in Division III tennis. While the offseason can be quite cold and distant, it is important for athletes to keep in shape. Practicing together while developing and maintaining chemistry is vital to future success. For a student athlete, this can be quite difficult to maintain with classes and other commitments.
After their first match, Coach Wong provided some additional input into how their work over the offseason has paid off so far. “We have only played one match and I am obviously happy that we walked away with a win. I was happy that with some different strategy in doubles, that the team kept with the plan and though it was not easy, played through adversity and came away with three hard fought wins. I am hoping that we can build off of that success and see even more progress in upcoming matches,” he said.
Unfortunately, the men fell 9-0 to The College of New Jersey last Saturday. Yet the Brewers had several close matches. Despite the loss, everyone has high hopes for the spring season. Cooper, Udine and Coach Wong all agree that their main goal is to win the Liberty League, giving them a chance to compete at NCAAs. Udine added, “The team has big expectations this year. Our team is a year older, returning all six singles starters from the end of last year. We are hoping that that experience and our improvements will help us.” For Udine, this experience is vital. “Individually, my mindset going into matches has improved a lot. Last season was my first full season as a starter, so I was able to gain a lot of experience and confidence moving from practice to matches. The team has made tremendous strides since last season,” he stated. “All I hope to do is fight for every match as hard as I can. As long as I do this, I know I’ll have a chance to win every match i play this year.”
Even for experienced veterans like Cooper, this season brings its set of individual goals. “All I hope to do is fight for every match as hard as I can. As long as I do this, I know I’ll have a chance to win every match I play this year,” he elaborated. Cooper, a former First Team All-Liberty League singles and Second Team All-Liberty League doubles player, also hopes to be regionally ranked in both singles and doubles.
Still, the men’s success depends on the team as a whole. “We have a pretty small roster so everybody is going to play a major role in our success. Even our non-starters are so important for us in practice so we are counting on every player on the team to contribute in their own way,” explained Coach Wong. Luckily the men’s chemistry off the courts is about as good as it gets. Said Udine, “Even though we have a wide variety of personalities on this team, you won’t find any thats closer. No matter what the situation is we are going to fight for each other more that for ourselves.” The men’s team relies on its cohesive bond on and off the court to sustain success and team chemistry. One commonality they share is the desire to win. “I just know that we are all looking forward to the season. The Liberty League is wide open this year and we are looking forward to competing for the title,” stated coach Wong. The Brewers continue their season next Saturday at Skidmore.