Despite his team’s youth, Steve Mauro’s goals remain the same.
The coach said the women’s tennis team’s inexperience has been accommodated for by its work ethic.
“We have a very talented team, everyone’s been working hard,” Mauro said. “I have very high expectations for this team.”
Since there are three upperclassmen on the Owls’ roster, Mauro said mixing players like freshmen Monet Stuckey-Willis and Yana Khon with the team’s veteran core could make for a competitive rest of 2014.
“With the younger players we brought in this year, and the older players that are on the team we should have a strong team this year,” Mauro said.
This showed at the St. Joseph’s Invitational Sept. 26-28, at which the team had a few top finishers.
Senior Rebecca Breland led the team with a runner-up finish in the fourth flight of singles play.
“It boosts my confidence a lot because when you first get back you play a lot of matches to begin the season,” Breland said of the performance. “It’s really great, it helps push me forward and makes me look forward to future tournaments.”
As the lone senior on the squad, Breland said she understands what the younger players mean to the program.
“I feel like the new players on the team bring a lot to the table this season, that itself is important in building a strong team,” Breland said.
Alongside her singles run, Breland teamed up with Khon in doubles play, in which they made it to the semifinals of the second flight before falling to Delaware, 8-1.
Breland’s efforts on the court have caught the attention of Mauro, who said he’s impressed with both her work ethic, and the play through which she leads.
“[Breland] works very hard on the court,” Mauro said. “She leads more by example, and the younger players feed off that. When the younger players see her working hard at practice and during the matches it speaks well to her leadership abilities.”
Freshman earning her keep
Ever since Mauro saw Stuckey-Willis compete as a junior player, he said he knew she could be a valuable asset to his women’s program in the near future.
“[Stuckey-Willis] had extensive training as a junior player, and had played in a lot of matches,” Mauro said. “We knew from the beginning that she would come in and contribute to the team. … She has a really good work ethic, and we are working on some skills to make her a more rounded player. She is very talented and we are expecting really good play out of her this year.”
Stuckey-Willis understands that she is a freshman, but said she’s looking past that label and concentrating her focus on where it needs to be. She turned in a fourth-place finish at the St. Joe’s Invitational.
“Just putting the fact that I’m a freshman behind, and actually focusing on competing is important,” Stuckey-Willis said. “I feel that it is key to show that I have something to bring to the table.”
After Mauro said his team looked fatigued during the end of its spring season, he was sure to count conditioning as a priority amid the team’s preseason training for the fall.
With further emphasis on fitness in training, Mauro feels that his players will be able to endure long matches and be able to come out on top.
“One thing that stood out last year was that we needed to be in better shape,” Mauro said. “So, we have emphasized on fitness more in the preseason and I think it is really going to pay off in the future.”
Next, the Owls will travel to St. John’s to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championships, which begin on Oct. 17 and conclude Oct. 20.
Dalton Balthaser can be reached at email@example.com