Preparing itself to kick off another season, the Vassar men’s tennis program has a new addition to the team. Coach Tina McDermott moved from the sunny shores of Hawai’i to the beautiful Hudson Valley to take over at the helm for men’s tennis.
Previously, McDermott was the head coach at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo for both the men’s and women’s teams. Last season, she left her mark on the record books at UH Hilo, guiding the men’s team to the winningest season in school history.
The team went 17-3 and reached a high of No. 5 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll. For her success, McDermott was honored as the 2018 Pacific West Men’s Coach of the Year and for the second straight year as the ITA West Region Men’s Coach of the Year.
In terms of what attracted the award-winning coach to Vassar, McDermott expressed her admiration for the value that the Athletics Department places on success both inside and outside the classroom. “Vassar is a place that aligns well with my longterm career goals,” McDermott noted. “It is an absolutely beautiful campus and prestigious institution that supports excellence in both academics and athletics.” McDermott also explained that, after meeting and speaking with some of the current players, she had an auspicious feeling that she would fit in well with and enjoy coaching the team.
This sentiment is not one sided. Senior captain Jamie Anderson and other teammates reciprocated the feeling of excitement for the new leadership. “[McDermott] has instituted a litany of new things for us—new warmup, cool-down, and match-day routines, new drills, her vision and tenets of ‘championship culture’—in the first two weeks,” Anderson explained. “Our practices are longer, more demanding. I think that her positivity, transparency and consistency have made us all willing to put forth the extra effort.”
He remarked at how smooth the transition into this season has been, especially considering the fact that McDermott was a mid-season hire. The senior attributed this to her “distinct set of philosophies, practices, and resources.”
What is McDermott’s vision? She outlined that, first and foremost, creating a team that trusts and respects one another, keeping the collective goals paramount, is a top priority. She preaches a “we over me” attitude to foster an environment in which the betterment of the group takes precedence over that of the individual. McDermott continued: “As a coach, I emphasize our vision, core values, high standards and a strong team chemistry. Tennis is an individual sport, but in college it is necessary to put team first.”
Implementing this mentality will prove particularly important for the Brewers, especially considering the high standards they have set for themselves. “We have one overarching goal for this season: win Liberty Leagues and get to Nationals,” Anderson spelled out. To accomplish this, Anderson plans on nurturing a culture of accountability, mutual respect and prioritization of group interests. The senior captain also explained that the group is
working hard to take that next step and come out victorious against those who have beaten them in tight matches the past few years.
Junior Jeremy Auh echoed Anderson’s sentiment that the primary goal of the team this year is to win Liberty Leagues and qualify for the NCAA Championship. Auh feels that the group has already shown promise this year with the completion of a successful fall season. “Some things the team did well this fall season was that we started off 2-0 and got a big revenge win against Coast Guard,” Auh explained.
He hopes that this momentum will carry into the spring season, and in order for this to happen, Auh is focusing on fitness. “In the spring, we need to continue to work hard on our conditioning as the season is long and we all need to be in the best shape we can be in in order to compete at our highest level,” he commented.
While the installation of a new coaching staff tends to entail a bit of an adjustment phase, Auh believes the Brewers have taken it in stride and are fully behind the fresh philosophies of McDermott.
Vassar men’s tennis starts off their spring season with two matches this upcoming weekend at home against the University of Rochester and RIT. The Brewers have been preparing both physically and mentally for these matches, which they know will set the tone for the rest of the season. “I think we’re all preparing very intentionally. We aren’t doing drills just to hit balls, or doing conditioning just to sweat: We’re doing these things on and off court so that we’re prepared to win, this weekend, and all the way through to Liberty Leagues in May,” Anderson said.
It seems as though everyone senses the heightened expectations. The upperclassmen, in particular, are doing their best to keep everyone excited to play every day. Auh disclosed that he makes sure he shows up to practice with intensity and stays positive in order to set the tone and help keep the group focused and working hard.
With the addition of a new head coach and more than enough talent to achieve their goals, there is an air of confidence around the Vassar men’s tennis team.
Their leader demands it. “My expectations,” announced McDermott, “are that we strive for excellence.”