The Emerson men’s tennis team was one of the school’s most successful squads in the spring of 2013. Finishing with a 10-2 overall record, the team reached the Great Northeast Athletic Conference semi-finals before losing to Suffolk University.
But a new year often means new faces — and in this case, a lot of them. Gavin Barton is out as the team’s head coach, and former Norwich University tennis standout Collin Hyte is now the man in charge of Emerson’s program. Hyte graduated from Norwich in 2012 with a degree in communications and is one of the best tennis players in the school’s history. He finished his collegiate career with a 36-8 record and three appearances on the All GNAC Tennis Team (2010, 2011, 2012).
But a new head coach isn’t the only change for the Lions. Only two of the nine players on last year’s roster are returning for the 2014 season, and the squad is losing 2013 GNAC Player of the Year Steve Frend.
Despite these changes, Hyte is ready for the 2014 campaign to begin. He sat down with the Beacon to chat about the upcoming season.
Berkeley Beacon: You’re taking over a team that reached the Great Northeast Athletic Conference finals a year ago. How are you feeling heading into this season?
Collin Hyte: I feel good. We’re in a new conference, the ... New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, and we have some good teams that we’re playing. We play [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. They’re ranked top three in the country. We have some good schools on the schedule so I think it’ll be a good year to hop into the NEWMAC.
BB: How’s the team looking this year?
CH: It looks different than last year. We only have one returner. It’s Nik Rhodes.
BB: So how many players are on the team right now?
BB: Is that enough players to go to battle with?
CH: No. Not yet. But I am gathering players up as we speak. It’s a bit of a rebuilding process this year. Actually wait, we have two returners. The other is Max Abbushi. So yeah, we have a lot of new faces on the team.
BB: What’s the mentality of the program right now?
CH: The mentality is it’s a new year. We have another freshman joining us from the soccer team (Samir Beria). I’m pretty excited for the year because it’s a whole new level from the GNAC. I’m just ready to get these guys to play competitively against these schools that have really talented players. We were supposed to have our first game today [Tuesday] but it got cancelled due to court conditions.
BB: Can you guys compete for a NEWMAC championship this year?
CH: It’s gonna be a learning process for everybody. We definitely can compete with some of the teams but it’s going to be a big transition from the GNAC to the NEWMAC.
BB: Nik Rhodes is one of the only returners. How do you think he played last year?
CH: He played five singles matches last year. He’s a really solid player. He’s going to be our number one to start the season.
BB: How are some of the other top number ones in the NEWMAC?
CH: They’ve gotta be pretty good. I’m assuming most of them played competitively in juniors before. They’re going to be solid players.
BB: It’s your first year as coach. What differences can you bring to this team?
CH: I understand the mentality because I played Division 3 tennis at Norwich University in Vermont. I played number one singles for three years and I understand how to help out guys on the team. And I can transition that to help out training the team and making them work and strive for what they want, which is to ultimately win. But to put it in perspective, I think I have a good mentality of helping these guys out with their strokes, and what they do wrong and what they do right. I can help out with those things.
BB: Making the transition from a player to a coach—how has that been?
CH: I still play tennis so I understand what a player’s mentality is and their confidence. The mental side of it. Especially playing at school, I can help out the guys with the whole college thing. Tennis and sports in general have a lot of ups and downs, and your confidence level can sway. I can help bring their confidence up and help them with that.
BB: Last question: if the Emerson men’s tennis team could send a message to the rest of the NEWMAC, what would that message be?
CH: It would definitely be we’re really excited to play in the conference and we’re looking forward to competing at a high level.