The Collegian
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Unity fuels the play of tennis teams

The Richmond men's and women's tennis players head into the next part of their seasons, and team dynamics are at a high point.

Mark Wesselink, who has been the women's coach for 20 years, said that so far, the team's strength had been the closeness between the players.

"They're getting along very well and it shows on and off the court," Wesselink said.

Ben Johnson, who started coaching the men this year, said unity was also a strength.

"They do a great job of supporting each other," he said.

The women's season began with a tough start, as it usually does, Wesselink said. Because nationally-ranked schools have a busy conference season, Richmond usually plays them early during the season, he said.

The women's team started out 0-3 but has since improved.

Senior captain Kelly Tidwell said, "I think it kind of gave us a good wake-up call because our results since the first three or four matches have been a lot better, and we've been playing a lot better."

This past weekend, the women traveled to North Carolina to play. They won 6-1 against Davidson College Friday and 5-2 against the University of North Carolina- Charlotte Saturday.

The team's overall record so far is 8-4, and it has been undefeated in conference matches.

Last year, the women won the Atlantic-10 championship, despite many injuries.

Wesselink said, "[The A-10 championship] was the highlight of last year after a struggle with all the injuries during the year."

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Tidwell said the depth of the team had been its biggest strength because different players won each match. She also said the doubles were stronger than they had been in the past.

Both Wesselink and Tidwell said that the match against Temple University in February had been a turning point for the team.

Junior Helen Cunningham won the last set, bringing the team to a 4-3 win.

Tidwell said, "I think that definitely kind of gave the team a boost of confidence that we needed."

Wesselink said freshman Elizabeth Sims had also been one of the strongest players in the lineup.

Sims was one of those players who relaxed the team and helped it play better, he said.

The women's team will play three more home matches this season. It will play West Virginia University on March 25, followed by a match against Binghamton University on March 26. The team's last home event will be against East Carolina University March 29.

Right now, Wesselink said the team was building for the A-10 championships.

"But this year we're much healthier, and so the results are showing and we're avenging some losses, which is satisfying," he said.

The men's tennis team has suffered many injuries.

Freshman Ethan Dunbar tore his ACL and meniscus and had been unable to play this year.

Freshman Zach Carl and sophomore Sebastien Fauchet have also been injured.

Additionally, sophomore transfer student Aaron Wicker has been redshirting.

"But [the injuries] did give a few of the other guys some opportunities," Johnson said.

The team has also had to adapt to having a new coach this year.

A.J. Nelson, a senior captain, said that one of the team's goals was to stay together to make sure it got used to having a new coach and to also help him become accustomed to being around the team.

"I think together as a team, I feel we're as close as possible," Nelson said.

The men's record for the season is 5-8. Last year, the team finished eighth in the A-10 conference with a 12-14 record.

Johnson said the team has been trying to focus on what adjustments it needed to make and that it was in an extremely hard training regimen.

The conference match against Duquesne University Saturday will affect where the team stands in the overall scheme of the conference, Johnson said.

The men's team has three more home matches. It will play Cornell University Sunday, followed by United States Naval Academy next Wednesday and Morgan State University on April 10.

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