Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Former No. 1 singles player explains dismissal from Minutewomen

Down 5-0 in the first set of Magdalena Ploch’s singles match against No. 1 seed Olga Mackhova of Charleston Southern March 16, Massachusetts tennis coach Judy Dixon approached Ploch and told her she was no longer going to be playing for the Minutewomen.

She made a name for herself last year with unfaltering singles and doubles play at the No. 1 spot for UMass. The rookie finished the 2008-09 season leading the lineup with a 10-9 singles record to go along with the same record in doubles.

Ploch, a native of Luedenscheid, Germany, continued to impress as a sophomore when she teamed up with promising newcomer Julia Comas for doubles.

Ploch also carried on her dominant singles play, and earned the 17th seed entering the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Championships. She defeated the No. 14 seed and two-time Patriot League champion Annie Houghton from Army and also upset the No. 3 seed from Harvard, Hideko Tachibana, who previously held a 12-0 record and three tournament titles.

The sophomore earned UMass Athlete of the Week in November for her solid performances.

Ploch entered spring break tournament play in Charleston, S.C., with a 9-4 record overall. She was also No. 16 among singles players in the entire Northeast according to an ITA poll. Ploch took a commanding role in helping the squad earn its 7-4 record, the team’s best start in 10 years.

The Minutewomen’s match against the No. 65 Buccaneers was the last time Ploch would ever represent her school. After Dixon approached her, Ploch forfeited the match.

 “I’m just going to say that [Ploch] is such a good tennis player, there had to be a lot of factors involved in my decision to remove her from the team,” Dixon said.

NCAA rules prohibit Dixon from discussing the incident in detail.

Ploch said she struggled with academics and the pressure of being the top singles player.

“Playing No. 1 for the team all the time does put on a lot of pressure,” Ploch said via email. “Even if my coach always said that she doesn’t expect me to win all the time, the team kind of does.”

Ploch alleges that communication shut down between her and her coach as the season progressed. She said the reason for her perceived lack of effort was because of her increased focus on schoolwork, which caused her to arrive tired for practice.  

Dixon said that her team’s schoolwork comes first. In 2009, the squad earned ITA All-Academic Team for the eleventh consecutive year and earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.2.

“Our academic accomplishments remain a very high priority,” Dixon said.

In addition to balancing athletics with academics, Ploch felt isolated from the rest of her team and struggled adjusting to her new assistant coach, Juancarlos Nunez. The Minutewomen were in Saint Louis preparing for the Atlantic 10 tournament and were unavailable for comment.

Ploch also claims that she was in pain and on medication at the time of the incident, but decided against informing Dixon.

“I knew that if I told her it wouldn’t make a difference,” Ploch said. “So when I was down 0-5 in the first set, she came on my court and said I’m not trying to win and that I’m officially not on the team anymore.”

The sophomore considered transferring prior to March 16, but waited until she was no longer a part of the team to make the decision. She has since lost her athletic scholarship.

“I knew it would be the best thing to transfer, but I knew I was the No. 1 and my coach would not release me if I told her that I wanted to go,” Ploch said.

The next day, Ploch got on a flight back to Amherst, hasn’t made an effort to contact Dixon and has little communication with her former teammates. 

She plans to continue playing tennis and said she received several offers, but will be transferring to Hawaii at Manoa in the fall.

Kara Deyermenjian can be reached at [email protected].

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