A youth movement has swept the University of Richmond men's varsity tennis team.
The team is composed of eight players, six of who are freshmen. Although the team is inexperienced, Dylan Trent, a junior and team co-captain, said he felt there was plenty of potential moving ahead.
"I think we're a lot more talented than we've ever been," Trent said. "We're young and it's made the season difficult at times, but I think next year we'll be a lot better."
Trent has assumed more leadership than usual because he is one of only two upperclassmen on the team.
"I usually have to answer to our coach about how they're doing academically or socially," Trent said.
He said he felt a responsibility to help his teammates succeed on and off the court.
Head coach Ben Johnson leans on his upperclassmen to watch over the younger players. The team is without a full-time assistant coach, so Johnson relies on the older players to fill that void.
"Ethan's as much of an assistant coach sometimes as he is a player," Johnson said, referring to Ethan Dunbar, the only senior on the team.
Johnson said he used both Dunbar and Trent, the co-captains, to check up on team camaraderie and the younger players' progress. Although Johnson said he felt the captains had provided great leadership, Trent acknowledges that the younger players have been open-minded and willing to learn, which has made his job much easier.
Jonathan Quenard is one freshman on the team who said he had assumed leadership at times. He said he had seen opportunities to be vocal during matches, as well as to approach some freshman teammates individually.
Trent gave Quenard credit for helping his fellow freshmen understand the lifestyle of college tennis.
"Tennis is such a golf-clap sport that sometimes [younger guys] don't realize when you get to college, you're supposed to be rowdy and rambunctious," Trent said. "Jon's been one of the guys who got that early on and has been able to press it on some of the other guys who are used to being quiet."
Johnson has modified his approach to handle the youth of the team. He said he altered the fall schedule to get the players used to the college game, and has taken a different approach in practice.
"In terms of practice, I've taken a lot more individualistic approach than I've done in the past," Johnson said.
He said the individual approach was preferred with younger players because it allowed him to be more specific with each player's game.
The Spiders are 9-12 at this point in the season. However, the team has seen the majority of its wins come in the second half of the season, and has gone 6-4 in its last 10 games. Trent said this turnaround showed progress and was a positive sign going into next season.
The biggest challenge for Johnson this year has been the maturity of his players. With so much youth, he said it has been a struggle to manage the younger players' knowledge of "when to be emotional or energetic, and when to go out and do your job and get better."
Contact Collegian Contributor Charlie Broaddus at firstname.lastname@example.org