For Paola Cigui, tennis has always been a part of her life, from playing on a professional level in Italy to playing Division II at Columbus State University and being ranked number one in the country for a few weeks.
Now, Cigui brings her skills and love of the sport to the women’s tennis team as its new head coach. Cigui is also a graduate student at Emerson, enrolled in the Global Marketing Communication and Advertising program.
“I enrolled in the GMCA program here, [and] they suggested me to be the head coach of the women’s team,” said Cigui. “I just got here [a few weeks ago] and I was recruiting over the summer.”
Cigui said she spent the summer coaching at a tennis academy in Bibione, Italy and expanding on her journalism major from her time as an undergraduate in Georgia.
Last year, the men’s and women’s tennis teams were both coached under the direction of Collin Hyte. Cigui was originally hired to be Hyte’s assistant coach for the women’s squad but took the offer of head coach when Hyte decided to focus on the men’s team.
The team currently consists of seven women—only one of last year’s six players returned this season.
Freshman visual and media arts major Jamie CoConis said she’s excited to work with Cigui in her first collegiate season.
“I feel like she is a pretty positive person, which is good because she is building the team from scratch,” said CoConis. “My junior year [of high school], we actually got a new coach and the transition was positive, so I’m hoping for a similar experience.”
A few practices into the season, CoConis said she has seen Cigui’s coaching style.
“She definitely knows what she talks about,” said CoConis. “She’s not shy about really telling you how to fix what you’re doing.”
Jamie Yates, a junior visual and media arts major and the lone returning player from last season, said she likes the changes Cigui has made so far.
“I like the way that she runs practices—it’s organized. We always do a warm up, and she always has us do the same drills in the beginning to get ready,” said Yates. “I think it’s good to have a routine.”
Yates said she also appreciates the way Cigui mixes both work and play at practice.
“She makes you feel really comfortable to be there and seems very passionate about the making the team the best it can be,” said Yates.
Cigui said she wants to make a connection with her players.
“I can bring to these girls some of my passion and to try build team spirit,” said Cigui. “I wanted to bring to the program a little bit of myself, my passion, and my experience.”
The team started out the season with a 9-0 loss against Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Sept, 5. Tiziana Vazquez, CoConis, Gilesa Thomas, and Yates were the four Lions that competed in the meet.
The team finished 0-8 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference and 0-11 overall last season.
Cigui is hoping to bring the team together and create something that can last for years to come.
“My biggest expectation is to create a real team where everyone shows commitment and everyone is into it,” said Cigui. “I think the greatest thing about college tennis is to be involved in a team and compete close to each other.”