Cecilia Castelli competed in her sixth-career match in Temple’s third-to-last regular-season contest last year.
She swept her Rider University opponent and only dropped one game. Coach Steve Mauro told The Temple News after the match that Castelli will become a key player as she gains more experience.
Castelli, a sophomore and the team’s lone returning underclassman, played in two matches in fall competition. She and junior Alice Patch lost their doubles match to Cornell University on Sept. 30 in the Princeton Invitational. Castelli won her singles match, 6-0, 6-1, against the University of Delaware on Oct. 7.
She has gone from “playing kind of timid to really actually wanting to be aggressive and finishing points,” senior Monet Stuckey-Willis said.
“This year she’s been more consistent than she was,” Mauro said. “Last year she was making errors. I don’t know if it was because she was nervous or if she was trying to impress too much. I think this year she’s settled down. She’s had a couple of good matches in the fall, so hopefully she can build on it.”
In Fall 2016, Castelli had a 3-3 record before she went 5-2 in the spring. Castelli played mostly out of the sixth flight, finishing with a 3-2 record in Spring 2017.
She played one match each out of the fourth and fifth flights. In her fourth-flight match against Longwood University sophomore Fallon Burger on Jan. 29, Castelli earned a 6-3, 6-1 sweep. She swept Saint Francis University freshman Kathryn Dunleavy, 6-4, 6-1, in her fifth-flight match on Feb. 25.
Last year, Castelli focused on growing accustomed to the team and adjusting to college tennis, she said. Now, she is trying to “find out things about the other girls and become a team,” she added.
During Friday’s practice, she switched from intensely competing in matches to lightly joking with her teammates.
“We try to find time not just to talk about tennis, because before the sport comes the people,” Castelli said. “We need to know each other, trust each other outside of the courts.”
Castelli has four new teammates this year. The Owls added three transfers to their roster, including Patch. She posted a 32-12 singles record and 40-8 doubles mark in two seasons at Division II Armstrong State University.
Sophomore Kristina Titova had an 11-4 singles record for Hampton University last season and helped the Pirates get within one match of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team title.
Senior Rimpledeep Kaur won the 2017 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year after winning all five of her singles matches in the top flight for New Mexico State University in league play.
With the fall season finished, the team is shifting its focus to preparing for the spring. Last year, Temple (11-13, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) lost in the first round of the conference tournament.
Temple lost to Cincinnati in the first round of The American’s tournament in the 2015-16 season. In four seasons in The American, the Owls have only advanced past the first round once when they had a program-record 19 wins in the 2014-15 campaign.
Creating a “great team bond” is important to the team’s success, Castelli said.
“The goal is obviously to have a great season,” she said. “We have to approach this coming season in the same way. We know that we’re a good team. If we compete hard and work hard, we will have a great season.”