Jan. 17, 2013
WASHINGTON - January is always an exciting month; it's the start of a New Year with new resolutions and goals. Everyone is back to their regular schedules and campus comes alive.
For a collegiate tennis player it comes with excitement and eagerness for other reasons. Apart from the thrill of going back to school and early morning fitness, it is the start of the official tennis season.
For some, this is the last twelve weeks left of their collegiate career, the final time to put it all on the line. For others, this is their first real taste of college tennis.
This season brings opportunity for both teams, as they look to continue the record-setting ways of the recent past. Head Coach Gordie Ernst expects senior co-captain standouts Vicky Sekely (Mississaga, Ontario/Lorne Park Secondary School) and Charlie Caris (Des Moines, Iowa/Theodore Roosevelt) to take the torch from last year's seniors Lauren Greco and Andrew Bruhn.
"Vicky and Charlie have won over one hundred matches each for the Hoyas, having players like that will help the rest of the team when we get into crunch time."
A number of changes on are the horizon, and the rules of the game have some modifications starting this season.
In August, the NCAA attempted to shorten a typical dual match by eliminating third sets in singles, shortening doubles to six games, limiting the rest time and eliminating warm ups with opponents. As soon as these proposed changes hit the news, there was immediate resistance from current, future and past student-athletes.
Players like John Isner commented through social media as did current NCAA stand-outs, finally leading to a petition that was signed to fight the rule changes. The NCAA took a step back and worked with the ITA, the governing body of collegiate tennis, to try and find some rule changes that could still shorten the matches, but not take away the integrity of the game.
The rule modifications that will be implemented this season are less severe and affect primarily doubles. Once the doubles point has been decided the matches will stop, there will be no-ad scoring and now a tiebreak will be played at seven all.
Coach Ernst is a proponent of these changes.
"I believe that we have to find ways to put out a better product for people to come and stay at the matches. Shortening, if done the right way, is a good experiment. It will add excitement and tension and make every point more important."
Putting aside all of these changes, the teams are keeping things simple and getting down to work. Both squads start the season with an opportunity to take on VCU's nationally-ranked teams.
Junior captain Casey Distaso (The Woodlands, Texas/Edmond North) views this weekend as a great opportunity to beat a ranked opponent.
"The other upperclassmen and I can't wait to see the younger guys go out there and compete alongside us. We have a talented, relatively young and fresh team that is ready for a dogfight. This weekend is a great barometer for our guys, and we will be unsatisfied with anything other than a win."
Senior co-captain Nora Montgomery (Winnetka, Ill./Loyola Academy) shares similar sentiments about the women's match.
"It's a great opportunity to challenge ourselves and improve by playing a ranked opponent. This match will certainly test us but it's a test we welcome to show what our team is made of."
Along with VCU, both squads will play Campbell on the same day. The following week both teams play Duquesne and the women open up BIG EAST play against the University of Pittsburgh.