But Astley is no longer a stranger, and knows that this year all eyes are on him to once again deliver a winning season.,When Mason Astley came to Emerson last year, he was a stranger. It was that environment of anonymity that allowed Astley, then the new head coach of the Emerson women's tennis team, to fly below the radar and guide his team to the playoffs.
But Astley is no longer a stranger, and knows that this year all eyes are on him to once again deliver a winning season.
"We improved a lot over the course of the season and we battled all year," he said. "That's all I ask. We had some good results in the playoffs."
The team did not leave the playoffs
as victors, getting knocked out in the semifinal round. But they did play well, avenging a regular season loss to rival Emmanuel.
The Lions hope that perhaps this year, the team's hard work will advance them even further. Laura Miley, a junior and veteran of the tennis team, said she certainly
thinks it will.
"I have great and high expectations
for the season," said the marketing communication major. "We have some pretty talented rookies that just joined the team and a sufficient amount of girls, which has been a problem in the past."
There are a host of new players
this year, with the majority of the team's members being freshmen
or sophomores. There are 11 underclassmen on the team, and just five upperclassmen.
In response to the increase in players Astley said there will be increased competition for playing time. However, he wants to give everyone a chance to show what they can do out on the court.
Astley also hopes to create more of a team cohesion this season, something often lost in the highly individualized sport.
So far, the players have been happy to oblige.
"We try to keep some sort of dynamic going by supporting each other's matches and giving each other when, [and] with certain opponents," said Miley. "In practice
is really when the dynamic shows, because if everyone's on their game, everyone gets the most out of their practice."
Elyse Bartlett, a freshman on the team, said she feels Astley has instituted a sense of camaraderie.
"He definitely makes us feel like more of a team with pep talks and he tries to inspire us," the political
communication major said.
Regardless of what happens this season, last year's positive performance has certainly gone over well with fans at Emerson.
"I saw one game last year and I actually really enjoyed it," said junior Oliva Perren. "I'm thinking
of going this year to one of their next games. I really have high expectations based on what they did last year."
Astley said he and the team know meeting those expectations won't be an easy task.
"We're going to have to bust our butts and work hard over these next couple of days. We've got to hit on the side, work out the kinks, and get ready to compete
for every single point," Astley said in a recent pre-game e-mail to his team.
The team only has one thing on its mind though: gunning its way back to the playoffs.
"Our rival schools include Suffolk,
Simmons, and Johnson Wales. These are the most competitive
teams that have given us the hardest time in the past. We don't want to take one, but all three of them down," said Miley.
Astley said he's not relying on any one player to deliver success to the Lions.
"There aren't any secrets," he said. "We work hard and try to play smart. Our team leaders
bring our team together and everyone helps everyone else."