By Ian Snowdeal
The Springfield College men’s and women’s tennis teams hope to kick off the 2021 season in April after a year and a half of no scheduled competition.
On March 12, 2020, the men and women’s tennis team received the news that they would no longer be taking the annual spring break trip to Florida to compete against out-of-conference opponents prior to a scheduled NEWMAC season.
Nearly a year later, the team received the news that there was a chance that a season could possibly be played. It was great news for third-year head coach Mike Louis.
“I think the response was just relief, excitement and practices have been different in the sense that there is more purpose now,” Louis said after receiving the news.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will be playing with shorthanded rosters due to players taking leave of absences and participating in their studies remotely this semester. This isn’t stopping or hindering the team from being able to compete in matches this season as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) has set formats in place to account for different challenges teams may be facing.
The men’s roster will be fielding five active players, two juniors, two sophomores and one first year, while the women will be fielding seven active players, three juniors, two first years, one senior, and one sophomore. A normal match will consist of three doubles matches and six singles, but with the shorthanded rosters, the matches will be condensed for the teams to compete.
The pandemic has given Louis time to reflect and adapt to the challenges of coaching during this shortened season.
“Your priorities change, our first priority is to create a safe environment, still maintaining the cultural fundamentals, but the driving force is to create a space for the players to get together, get away from the computer screen, and just play the sport that we all love, said Louis, “I’m excited to see how these circumstances affect their growth and maturity individually and as a team this season.”
Players to Watch:
For the men’s team, Lucas Van Deventer is a player that can have a big impact on this year’s team. Van Deventer has improved every year on the court and has become a vocal leader for this year’s team.
“Lucas is a big part of this team,” said Louis. “He has been bringing that level of intensity at practice that we need.”
Van Deventer started his freshman year as the final singles player on the roster and consistently improved his game throughout the season, competing as high as fourth singles on an impressive 2018-2019 squad. He finished the season with an 8-5 singles record and 2-1 doubles record.
He was looking to have a major impact on the team last season prior to the cancellation of the spring season. Since the cancellation, it has been hard for Van Deventer to play tennis regularly.
“A lot of the tennis facilities have been closed, so I didn’t have a lot of access to work on my game,” said Van Deventer. “Whenever I can, I’m always working on something to improve my game, whether that’s going outside for a run or working out.”
In addition to Van Deventer, James Foley – another junior – is set to fill a vacant leadership position on the team after it lost Freddie Moffa to graduation in the spring. Fabian Jensen, a junior from Norway, is also a bright spot on the short roster who is expected to occupy the No. 1 singles spot.
On the women’s side, there is no single player to watch.
Louis said, “Honestly my spotlight is the team itself, we have veterans that have been through a lot and newcomers that are just hungry to play. I’m excited for the whole team and see how these next matches go. I’m excited to see them embrace it and just run with it.”
The team has seen a lot of turnover from last year’s squad and is just excited to have the opportunity to play competitively again.
Junior Juliette Piazza said, “We are excited that we have the opportunity to compete again.”
Hailey Higgins, the lone senior on the roster, Rielly Malz and Heidi Schuman – in addition to Piazza – are expected to put up consistent effort on their side of the net, leading the young group.
The women’s team is currently tentatively scheduled to compete in five matches this season while the men are scheduled for just three.
The women’s team will be competing against Clark University, Wheaton College, and Babson while the men will have matches against Coast Guard, Clark University, Babson, and Wheaton College.
In the 2019-2020 season the men’s team finished its fall season with a 4-2-1 record and the women finished with a 3-1 record.
This season however isn’t about wins or losses for the Pride, but improving on their game and taking every opportunity that is given to them.
“The mindset I want from them is to own this, own the moment. We will have the opportunity in April to shine and have those moments. I don’t want them to have any regrets, I want them to compete with a full heart,” said Louis.
This team is grateful for the opportunity to compete again and will be looking forward to the upcoming matches beginning with a match on April 3 at Clark University for the women’s team and at Coast Guard for the men.
Photo: Jack Margaros