– November 5th, 2012 by Shannon Hutchins –
Tennis team crowned east division champions
The Chargers tennis team recently celebrated being crowned East Division NEAC champions, which a year ago spectators would have thought impossible. One year ago the team won just nine games and lost nine others, so they ended up at a five hundred record, but this season’s team finished with 16 wins and just two losses.
Barry Schoonmaker believed that the “great senior leadership that their two captains’ Liz Lincoln and Claire Toffey provided was a big key” to the turnaround. In conjunction with the great leadership provided by those outstanding athletes was the fact that this season’s team got great production from four newcomers. Two of the newcomers were freshman however the other two ladies joining the tennis ranks were two sophomores, Donna Gordon and Oxana Tkachenko and the addition of these newcomers “provided the team with strong depth,” according to Schoonmaker.
The leadership that the two captains, Lincoln and Toffey, provided was something that Schoonmaker was grateful for and when talking about such leadership he had trouble coming up with words to adequately describe how important it was. However the coach could expound on what made them such great leaders. He believes that “because they are winners, have had great success over their time here at Colby-Sawyer, and because they understand how to take care of business when it comes time to play,” that the younger players gravitate towards their advice and presence.
Lincoln and Toffey helped integrate the newcomers into the tennis ranks as well as helped these new players adjust to collegiate athletic life. Lincoln said that the integration of the new players into the team and college life began in preseason by doing a lot of activities together such as eating meals together, practicing, or working out together. She and other teammates wanted to “make the newcomers feel as warmly welcomed as they were when we were in their positions.”
When talking about what made Lincoln and Toffey such great role models, Schoonmaker pointed to the fact that “because they have been through it before” they were in the position to “offer others good advice on how to prepare for matches and opponents, how to make in match adjustments, as well as teach these other players how to balance academics with the rigors of collegiate sports traveling.”
When talking about making the academic transition, Lincoln asserted, “It can be hard to focus on the match at hand if you are worried about what papers or tests are coming up on the horizon,” so she tried to help steer younger players in the right direction by telling them to “get as much work done in between classes and as far in advance of the due dates as possible.”
While the fall slate of matches is over, the tennis team will have a few matches set for spring including one game against the NEAC West division champions with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. Before then Schoonmaker talked about how the team “needs to get better on doubles play” before then which is something the team will practice when winter indoor practices begin.
While the team can bask in the champions glow now Schoonmaker knows that the seven returning players next year will face a big challenge. The challenge being that with winning comes “pressures and the expectations to win.” Now that the team has won they will be expected to repeat this year’s performance next year and the teams that they play “will have nothing to lose ,” says Schoonmaker who argues that the “preparation for the team next year will be marginally different,” since they will be the favorites to win.