The women’s tennis team wasted no time making a statement this fall, traveling to SUNY Oswego on Friday Aug. 30 and dispatching the hosting Lakers, 9-0. The Knights won a SUNYAC title in the fall of 2012 and earned a berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament in spring 2013 on their way to a 15-4 record. Former co-captains Katie Talbot ‘13 and Sarah Shields ‘13 graduated, but this year’s younger version of the Knights has potential to be just as successful as their predecessors.
“We think it’s going to be a challenge, but my fond hope is that we will rise to that challenge,” head coach James Chen said in a phone interview. Chen is entering his 12th year as head coach of the Knights, and in anticipation of his team’s relative inexperience – four freshmen without any seniors on the 11-member squad – he said he purposely scheduled some difficult matches this year in order to test his team.
After starting the fall season against Oswego and then opening the home slate on Thursday Sept. 5 with local rival Nazareth College, the Knights will participate in the Mary Hosking Tournament at William Smith College. Later this month, Geneseo will participate in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Northeast Tournament, where it will close out its fall schedule with two interesting matches: a visit to perennial power Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a rare match against Division I Siena College.
Some might question the prudence of such a difficult schedule, but Chen said that he has full faith in his young team. Already, he said, he can see improvements in the team, especially in the leadership qualities exhibited by the two new co-captains.
“[Junior] Amanda Rosati and [sophomore] Marylen Santos have really stepped up,” Chen said. The duo, who were key players on the team last year, are now two of the more experienced players on the team, looking to guide the Knights to success once again.
Santos, who is entering her second year at first singles, and Rosati, last year’s fourth singles player but now at third singles, cruised thrvough their singles matches with identical 6-0, 6-1 scores before beating Oswego’s first doubles team, 8-0.
Junior twins Minxuan Yuan at sixth singles and Dexuan Yuan at second singles never dropped so much as a game, winning their singles matches 6-0, 6-0 and then pairing to triumph at second doubles, 8-0. A pair of freshmen, Karli Hollins and Maggie Hale, earned the final three victories for the Knights.
While it is very early in the season, Chen said that he is excited about the direction of his team.
“There is a progression that I have in mind as a coach,” he said. “In a timely fashion, we are getting better.”
He said that more practice time spent on doubles teams has paid dividends already. This is an area that could have helped the Knights last year in the NCAA tournament when they lost all three doubles matches en route to a 5-3 season-ending defeat by the College of New Jersey.
All that remains now is for the Knights to, as Chen said, “Keep it going in a positive trajectory” all the way through the season.