UMass tennis prepares for opening tournament
The Massachusetts tennis team, led by coach Judy Dixon, is set to begin its 2009-10 season. Dixon, who will begin her 17th year as the UMass coach, said that this year’s squad of 11 women has the best depth she’s seen as coach of the Minutewomen.
Seven members of last year’s team (11-15) return to the squad this year. UMass also adds four new faces: three freshmen and sophomore Michelle Boisvert, who grew up in Amherst.
Leading the team as captain will be Maude Lecluyse. The senior, based out of Montreal, was recruited four years ago by Dixon when she was only 16. Lecluyse is currently sixth on the school’s all-time doubles wins list with 52.
“She’s one of the kids who the team looks to,” Dixon said. “She is the passion of this team.”
Dixon will look to Magdalena Ploch, last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year, to be the top player this season. Ploch is a sophomore from Germany, and Dixon calls her “one of the best players in the conference.”
After Ploch, the Minutewomen’s top three this year will include junior Candynce Boney from Las Vegas and freshman Julia Comas from Spain.
Rounding out the top eight this year are Lecluyse, junior Kaitlyn Carpenter from Pennsylvania, freshman Chantal Swiszcz from Spain, junior Tanisha Hodgson from Aruba and freshman Jocelyn Providence from Pennsylvania.
Just over half of the team members are international, which Dixon said is common among NCAA tennis teams. This is because training programs in foreign countries begin at an earlier age. International students also take their education very seriously and so a chance to attend an American university under scholarship is a “prestige and honor,” she said.
The team is relatively young, as seven of the members are freshmen or sophomores. In addition to Comas, Ploch, Providence and Swiszcz, the team also includes sophomores Boisvert, Gabriella Jannotta from Nevada and Maria Vakulskaya from Russia.
Dixon has new graduate assistant coach Juancarlos Nunez as an assistant this season. As an undergraduate at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, he posted a career 78-30 career singles record and received multiple awards and honors.
She hopes Nunez’s success during his playing days will help lead the Minutewomen in their first tournament this weekend.
In the upcoming Eastern Collegiate Invitational tournament, Dixon is allowed to bring eight members of her team. The invitational is a “flighted tournament” style, meaning that players must be designated to either the singles or doubles division and cannot compete in both.
Ploch will compete in the singles A-division, a field represented by every team’s best player. Comas will compete in the B-division, Carpenter in C and Swiszcz in D.
Boney and Lecluyse will team up to take on opponents in the doubles A-division. Hodgson and Providence will compete in the B-division.
Jannotta will serve as an alternate because according to Dixon, “she has been playing so well this fall.”
The team has only been meeting and practicing for a few weeks because of NCAA rules. Since tennis’s main season is in the spring, the team was not allowed to meet until the first day of school this fall. Therefore, Dixon is excited to finally see her team in action against opponents.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend. There is not a lot of pressure as it is not about the team, but rather an individual tournament. [There will be] some good match play to get us prepared for Holy Cross [next Thursday],” she said.
Chris Shores can be reached at email@example.com.