Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams suffered huge talent losses from last season, but their futures look bright as they aim to improve upon last year’s results.
Longtime head coach Kathy Campbell has returned to Vassar after taking sabbatical last spring. Over the last 35 years, Coach Campbell has led the Vassar women’s tennis team to winning over 70 percent of their matches.
Last spring, the women finished 13-8 overall under interim head coach Bruce Levine. Levine and Campbell have very different coaching styles but the team remains strong despite the back and forth in leadership.
“I don’t even think there was an adjustment period, everything just went back to the way it was before she [Coach Campbell] left. We all missed her last semester and are happy to have her back,” junior Morgan Fitzgerald said. The fall season serves as an opportunity for Campbell to evaluate the team and consider her starting lineup for the spring.
Leading the way for the Brewers is junior Kate Christensen. She will continue to take the No. 1 spot after competing against some of the country’s top players as a sophomore last year. Christensen has lived up to her four-star tennisrecruiting.net rating as both a freshman and a sophomore, with 13-4 and 13-11 singles records respectively.
Last year’s No. 2 singles player, Courtney Geiss, will miss both the fall and spring seasons, as she is studying abroad at the London School of Economics for the entirety of her junior year. Other notable losses include Kelsey Van Noy and Lauren Stauffer, both of whom graduated as members of the Class of 2016.
Senior captain Shayna Becker is looking to replace her former doubles partner, senior Hanna McGuire, who decided to not play for her last year. Becker and McGuire, who went 8-7 overall at No. 1, accounted for the biggest win of last season when they beat a pair of All-Americans from Skidmore in Liberty League play.
Along with Becker and McGuire, No. 2 pair Van Noy and then-freshman Morgane Flournoy won their match against the Thoroughbreds. Then-sophomore Morgan Fitzgerald, Becker and Flournoy each defeated their respective singles opponents, bringing home the woman’s biggest win of the season 5-4.
Since McGuire’s departure, Coach Campbell has tested out new doubles teams, pairing Becker with both Flournory and freshman Tara Edwards.
“Shayna and I share a really good energy on the court and our styles of play work well together,” Flournoy expressed. “Shayna is very consistent and has great put-aways up at net. I’m able to set her up really well with my serve and groundstrokes.”
The fall is also a great time to focus on team cohesion and the integration of the freshmen into both team culture and the collegiate tennis atmosphere. “We have had a great start this season so far in terms of establishing a cohesive and supportive team unit. One of our team goals is to maintain this positive team dynamic in the coming weeks and in the spring,” Becker said. “Making sure the freshmen are well integrated into the team is vital to maintain this cohesive team unit with open communication between players.”
Edwards looks particularly promising after a strong performance in her college debut at the Swarthmore Tournament, picking up a Liberty League Rookie of the Week nod. “I feel great about how my collegiate career has started. I feel like I’m playing well and I’m having fun, so I’m really pleased right now,” expressed Edwards.
This past weekend, the team hosted SUNY New Paltz, New York University and Connecticut College in the annual Vassar Scramble, its only home tournament of the fall. The team had a great showing as they finished the weekend with a 27-11 mark, winning 69 percent of the matches it played.
Becker and Edwards both went undefeated during the first day of competition, going 2-0 in singles and teaming up for a doubles win. The pair also competed together on Sunday, winning 8-4.
Senior and captain Connie Yoo also had a strong performance over the weekend, finishing 4-1 in singles. Her lone loss came after a challenging three-set battle against an NYU opponent. Last season, Yoo had the best singles percentage of any Brewer, winning seven of her nine contests.
Next weekend, the team will travel to Geneva, NY to compete in the ITA Northeast Regionals. Christensen will look to repeat her ITA performance from two years ago when she won the tournament, becoming the regional champion and a singles All-American.
Following the ITAs, the Brewers will conclude the fall season with two Liberty League matches against Union and Bard. In the fall of 2015, Vassar beat Union 8-1 and Bard 9-0.
The girls often attribute their excellence in home events to the support they receive from the men’s team. Throughout the years, the men’s and women’s squads have shared an incredibly close bond from which they both reap benefits.
“We have always have had a close relationship with the men’s team since my freshman year. They come to support our matches and we go to theirs,” Becker noted. “They always bring great energy and I think that that support really makes a difference when we play close matches.”
With the women cheering them on, the men’s team hopes to return to the Liberty League playoffs after a disappointing end to the 2015-2016 season, during which they finished 8-14 and did not make it to post-season play.
Third-year head coach Alex Wong states, “I have liked the energy that we’ve practiced and competed with so far. I think that it is partially due to the returners’ hunger after a tough loss at the end of last year, and the freshmen coming in with great energy work ethic. I am looking forward to seeing our improvements and how we stack up against tough regional and national opponents.”
After some late season 4-5 losses that pushed them out of Liberty League contention, a major goal for the team is to focus on its grit and toughness compared to past seasons.
“We are looking to come back stronger in every aspect compared to last year. Technically, physically and mentally stronger,” says No. 1 singles player, senior Nick Litsky.
Litsky and fellow senior Juan Felipe Laso will team up as captains as they look to improve upon their strong personal seasons while leading the whole team to the Liberty League Tournament. Both captains finished last season 15-9, posting the strongest play within the squad.
Laso reflects on his junior season while looking forward to his final year, stating, “It was a good season for me last year, but it also ended on a very bitter note. At the end of the day, it is not about how each individual in the team performs but about the results of the team as a whole.”
The team has a few big roles to fill as they lost last year’s captains, Daniel Cooper and Evan Udine, to graduation. Like Laso and Litsky, Cooper finished last season with a winning record of 15-8.
Junior Gray Thurstone was also an integral member of last year’s team after picking up All-Liberty League Honorable Mention for doubles. Thurstone will miss the entire fall season and the majority of the spring to recover from shoulder surgery he had over the summer.
Despite losing these impactfiul players, Coach Wong has high hopes for the underclassman and believes that they will excel on the court. “We lost some great players and great leaders with last year’s graduation. Their shoes will obviously be tough to fill, but I think that the sophomore and freshman classes are stepping up early in this season and will be in the mix to start in this year’s lineup,” reflected Wong.
As for the freshmen, Allen Sokolov stated, “I think all of us freshmen have really fit in. The whole team is meshing well personality-wise and we are all really close friends. On court we are just trying to do anything to help the team win.”
This past Friday, Vassar competed against Williams College to open the fall season. The Brewers fought hard but ultimately fell 8-1 to the No. 12-ranked Ephs.
Despite a hard team loss, Laso had a strong individual start to his season beating a difficult opponent at the No. 3 singles spot with scores of 6-2 and 6-3. Despite losing, sophomore Jamie Anderson took his No. 4 competitor to three , falling 3-6, 6-4, 8-10.
The men’s team