In the five years prior to last seasons, the historically successful Emerson men's tennis team never failed to make a drive to the GNAC tournament final. However, last year they suffered a misstep when they lost to Suffolk University in the semi-final round of the tournament.
"Last year, compared to the other years, we didn't do that good, because we normally reach the finals," said junior film major Varun Kapur. "It was the first time we hadn't reached in five years."
One of the changes to the team this year is the appointment of new Head Coach Mason Astley, who presides over both the men's and women's teams. Astley said his goal is to bring out the best in his players.
"I think as a first-year coach my first year job is to focus on us working together as a team, to improve," he said. "From there we're going to focus on performing and playing the best tennis that we can."
Senior Dave Fein said he thinks the team's fortunes will reverse themselves under Astley's direction. He said Astley will make the team both more dedicated and turn them into better players.
"I think the availability of people last season really hindered our chances of making it to the finals," the film major said. "But I don't see that being a problem this year, especially because our coach is so dedicated to really bringing the team together and making sure everybody does show up, and making us better players.
Astley has a vast amount of experience with the sport. On top of a lifetime of playing tennis, Astley has taught the sport for four years at the Mount Auburn tennis club in Watertown, Mass. He is the former head coach of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute's tennis team. He only coached there for one year, after which the school decided not to fund tennis as a varsity sport.
He also boasts a master's degree in sports psychology from Boston University which he received last year. He received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College, where he played varsity tennis.
Kapur says Astley's experience and youth will likely be a boon for the team.
"With him we can relate more, because he has been around, he's played a lot of tournaments, and he'll bring us more balance. He can relate more to the players while we're in the game," he said. "He really knows that our education comes first here at Emerson. He cuts us some slack."
Kapur said class conflicts present a frequent problem for the members of the team, making it tough for many players to get consistent practice time. He said he would like to improve his level of dedication to the team this year. If the team can improve its dedication, Kapur believes they can once again reach the finals.
"We should reach the final," he said. "That's a given. Emerson tennis should always reach the finals, because we have a great team. I sincerely think we should be able to win the GNAC."
Astley said he is less concerned with setting a goal of making it to the finals. Instead, he simply wants his players to do their best with what they have.
"It's not like track where you're trying to produce a time," he said. "Here, you're only in charge of half the shots in a match, and you have to do your best with those shots. We do that, if we play our best, then we play our best, and that's good. We're going to enjoy ourselves too."
The team's first match will be held on Saturday, Feb. 28 at MIT. Fein said the team is already looking good, so he expects them to perform well in the match and get the season off on a good footing.
"Comparing to last year, I already feel like everybody's starting out really strong," he said. "I feel really good about this season and I think we're gonna have an awesome successful season. There's no reason we won't make it all the way."