Women’s tennis focuses on team dynamic

by Libby Sweeney / Beacon Correspondent • October 26, 2016

Even though temperatures in Boston are dropping, Emerson’s women’s tennis team feels they are on the rise after a relatively successful fall season.

The team concluded the fall season on Oct. 11 with a 4-8 record, after not winning a match for three years. They finally had a roster larger than the minimum six players required to compete.

The team saw a major rework—only two players returned to play this year. Sophomores Jamie CoConis and Tiziana Vazquez are the veteran members of the squad, playing alongside five new players, all freshmen. Despite their youth and experience, it seems the veterans were eager to have five young faces.

“We are much closer as a team. Even though I’ve only been on [the team] two years, this was the first year we’ve had really good morale on the team,” CoConis, a communication disorders major, said. “We definitely became a closer knit team.”

Head coach Dan Munsey said he had reservations about the freshmen, but quickly found out there was nothing he needed to worry about.

“The dynamic was great,” Munsey said. “I was definitely concerned about that going into the year [with a roster] so young, but I think in terms of the team dynamic it’s been fantastic.”

There was no lack of peer guidance for the players, Munsey said, even though there are only seven of them.

“[The sophomores] have definitely taken a leadership role, but it’s been really interesting because everyone’s taken certain roles in their own way,” Munsey said. “We don’t have that four-year senior who’s the clear cut leader of the team—it’s kind of been on everyone to step up and take their own leadership position.”

And with a small team, it was simple for the players to step into different roles and form a strong dynamic very quickly. Both the players and the coach said this was the most important factor in the team’s budding success.

Sabrina Jacobs, a freshman visual and media arts major, said the group became more than just a team.

“It’s cliché, but everyone got to know each other really well,” she said. “It’s a really small team, like a family. Even though we didn’t have a winning record, if you look at our record in the beginning versus the end, we improved a lot. It was a lot of forward momentum.”

The difference between the opening and closing matches is notable. The Lions had two crushing 9-0 defeats to start their season, but followed those up by winning their first match since 2013 against the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth after Munsey decided to switch up some of the doubles pairings. The season itself ended on a high note, with a 6-3 win at Salem State University.
 
While the team hasn’t won a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference game in several years, they relish in the chance to play in what is deemed by the group an extremely competitive conference.

“Eventually that’s going to be a huge advantage, to be playing in this conference,” Munsey said. “Women’s tennis in the NEWMAC is one of the best conferences in the country—we have three teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation, which is incredible to be at that level. We had a couple [matches] that I think we might’ve let get away, but it comes to experience. We’re playing against seniors who have been in the NEWMAC for four years and we’re right there with them.”

But the team’s next conference match will have to wait. NEWMAC tennis has two seasons, fall and spring, and this year the conference play was done only in the fall. For the 2017-2018 season, NEWMAC tennis is switching the conference games to spring, which means the Lions have a year and a half to wait before they face a NEWMAC team again.

For Munsey, the hiatus means time to practice and better the program—and not just for the sake of the conference.

“I want to make this not only one of the top teams in the conference, but one of the top teams in the region, and I want to be in the position where were doing it every year,” Munsey said. “I don’t want to be up and down; I want to be toward the top of the conference and sustain that.”