With the snow gone, the temperatures rising and the days getting longer, the West Chester University men’s and women’s tennis teams are set to continue their rebuilding phase under Head Coach Tina Tharp. “It’s been pretty difficult rebuilding since I got her,” Coach Tharp said, “as coaches, we have to raise all our scholarship money ourselves, but I have a great AD (Athletic Director) and a great president who’s been really helping us out.”
“When I got here the program was in shambles,” she continued, “and almost 20 years ago the men’s and women’s teams won the NCAA’s under Ron Woods. I want to bring it back to the standard Ron had.”
Returning to those heights will not be easy as WCU looks to rally its way up the standings of two very strong divisions in the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference). The women’s side is split into two divisions, with WCU being in the eastern half and the lack of teams on the men’s side unites teams from throughout the state into one division, one “tough division” as expressed by Coach Tharp.
However, the quality of the competition has not deterred the teams from looking towards one thing: playoffs. That’s right.we’re talking about playoffs.
The men will be looking to improve on their 7-10 finish last year, which left them out of the PSAC Playoffs, behind a group of seniors led by team captain Matt Thomas.
“Matt, he’s tough as nails,” said Coach Tharp on her men’s captain, “He’s an athlete, he would excel at any sport, and it’s been a pleasure watching him see what he can do on the court.”
The other seniors include Alan Day, Michael Ensor and Nate Geigle, a new member who transferred from another school.
“With the men’s team I came into a situation where I had no money at all,” Coach Tharp said, “so it was really tough to get it turned around, but the guys I have give 100%, they play tough, and they play hard.”
Adding to the new team is another transfer, junior Steve Hlava, along with freshmen Jimmy Aridas, Joseph Cooke, and Connor Dunn. Returning to the team are sophomores Michael Sim and last year’s win leader, with a 10-7 record, David Goldenberg.
“On the men’s side it was a five year plan, but if they could make the playoffs a few years earlier that would be great, and I really think they’re good enough. And they want it…they’re tired of the girls always winning,” Coach Tharp said.
After making the playoffs last year, with a 13-7 record, the bar has been set a little higher going into 2011, “I really think this year we should finish first or second in our division,” commented Coach Tharp, “.I don’t put that out there to make them nervous, I think they’re talented enough to do it.”
“The seniors this year are the last group of players I’ve inherited,” she continued, “they’ve been the heart and soul of this team and they’re really going to be missed.”
Among those seniors is team captain Kara Shumock, who shares Coach Tharp’s outlook on this upcoming season.
“The whole team is excited for the season,” she said, “This year we want to compete for PSAC championships and hopefully qualify for the NCAA tourney. To accomplish that this season would be a great finish for the current seniors.”
In addition to Shumock there are three more highly talented seniors: Claire Afrassiabian, Teresa Grasso, and Luisiana Souto. The four were a combined 51-15 in dual matches, with Afrassiabian finishing with a stellar 16-0 record.
The success on the court has not been limited to just the upperclassmen.
“When I first came in I had a little [scholarship] money for the women’s which helped me turn things around,” said Coach Tharp.
Her team captain was in accord: “Coach Tharp has done a great job recruiting and has brought in some high quality players over the last few years which gives us a chance to compete on a higher level as a team.”
Rounding out the roster are three sophomores: Brittany Counts, Alison Fitter, and Alex Santoro; along with a large group of five freshmen: Chelsea Gavin, Lauren Igo, Tara Krauss, Nicole Paller, and Haley Wissinger.
On the doubles court the women finished with a 37-25 record on the backs of the then freshmen paring of Brittany Counts and Alison Fitter’s 10-8 record along with Kara Shumock and Luisiana Souto’s 10-5 record.
With the fantastic performances shown on the court last year by the group of returning players along with the new group of incoming freshmen, there seems to be no reason to expect anything less than a good post-season run from this women’s team.
“This was the year I thought we would make the playoffs,” coach Tharp said. “They did it a year early, now they have to go and back it up.”
Brian Johnson is a third-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.