Men’s Tennis Looks to Develop Young Talent

Wilson Reynolds ‘21 

Sports Writer

After graduating one of the most successful senior classes in team history last spring, the Wildcats’ men’s tennis squad begins a new chapter with a young starting lineup that has performed well to start the season. The Wildcats are coming off consecutive 16-win seasons  and an impressive semi-final finish in the Atlantic 10 tournament last season—their best ever performance in the conference. With the loss of four senior starters, this season poses a new test for the players, but they have proven themselves up to the challenge so far.

With such a fresh start, goals for the season were hard to define. “Because it’s such a new squad, we’re really just focusing on the next match,” said Head Coach Drew Barrett. “Growth is important right now… We really just want to compete well and have a chance to win and build confidence.” 

2018-19 is Barrett’s thirteenth season as the coach of the Wildcats, and with such experience, he recognizes the need for tapering expectations for the young squad: “At the beginning of the season, with everyone having to move up significant positions, you just didn’t know what you were going to get.”

Nevertheless, the ‘Cats began the season with two impressive 7-0 sweeps of Boston University and Winthrop. “In those matches, we were pretty even on paper, but we won every match. No one was really sure how the team was going to play, but we impressed ourselves,” said sophomore Yash Parikh.

The team also opened conference play with another 7-0 victory over St. Bonaventure, before falling to Virginia Tech—a program ranked in the nation’s top forty.

Barrett believes those matches have been crucial in shaping the team’s identity: “What we’re developing is how we play under pressure. So far, when we’ve gotten the lead, we’ve swept them, and surprisingly so… Even at Virginia Tech, we won first sets and had chances to win matches.”

The season’s early matches have also revealed many of the team’s strengths. “We’re a hardworking group of guys who are very disciplined on the court. We don’t make a whole lot of errors… but we’re very competitive,” said Barrett. “They listen really well and compete hard; it’s a quality you don’t really see from a whole group of guys. In general, these guys are pretty steady in approach; so you can see growth day in and day out.”

The growth Barrett is noticing sets the tone well not only for the rest of this season, but for the future of the program as well. With a starting lineup composed of two freshmen, three sophomores, and a junior, the team has ample time to develop even further. Said Barrett: “We have everybody for two years. We’re not thinking of this as a one-year process. We’re thinking of this as a two-year growth and seeing what we can do. We’re not thinking: let’s get the most out of everybody this year… We’re still relying on that long-term approach.”

Parikh believes that his teammates concur. “We’re definitely focused on this year; but we all see the long-term picture, where we each have at least two more years on the team. So I think we can make a lot more improvements and do even better than we have been.”

The Wildcats still have thirteen matches remaining in the regular season (which ends April 14), and are optimistic about the Atlantic 10 tournament in Orlando April 25-28. Barrett noted that, despite the long-term vision of the team, there is serious potential for success this year: “The team we are right now isn’t going to be the team we will be two months from now… The thing that I can trust the most is they improve every week. Something is always improving.”

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