UMass getting ready to begin season

By Scott Cournoyer

Amanda Joinson/Collegian

After nearly a month of practicing, the Massachusetts tennis team is ready to compete, beginning this weekend at the Eastern Collegiate Invitational in West Point, N.Y.

“We’re really excited to finally get back into play with some good competition and to see what we can do,” UMass coach Judy Dixon said. 

With nine returning players and three freshmen who are hungry to take their respective games to the next level, the team looks to come out of the gate aggressive and prove they are worthy of being a top contender this year for the Atlantic 10 title.

“We have a great group of players here,” Dixon said. “We have veterans who know how to perform in crunch time; we have new players who are ready to make immediate impacts. We have everything it take, and these girls are the most motivated of anyone,” Dixon said.

Veteran players on the team will look to show the freshmen what collegiate tennis is about. According to Dixon though, the three new recruits are quickly coming into their own.

“The new girls look really good,” Dixon said. “They’re definitely getting there, especially Jessica [Podlofsky]. She’s a grinder and a real competitor and I think she’s made for stages like this.”

Freshman Yuliana Motyl is projected to start as the No. 1 in singles, showing that she has what it takes to come in right away and make noise. The Toronto, Canada native came to UMass with a top 500 ranking in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Circuit, competing against some of the very best amateurs.

“[Yuliana] is special,” Dixon said. “She’s got a solid overall game, something that’s extremely hard to obtain for any player at any level, let alone as a freshman. We expect for her to do really good things for us this year.”

Sophomore Julia Comas, who was named to the All-Conference team last year, will be slotted into the No. 2 spot in singles, followed by a competition between senior Candynce Boney and newcomer Clara Matias, who’s made a fluid transition thus far, for the No. 3 spot.

“Clara’s still a work in progress, but has made great strides so far to prove she belongs near the top of singles and doubles,” Dixon said. “She works hard, and when it all comes together, it’s going to be special.”

Senior Kaitlyn Carpenter rounds off the top five, but beyond the pairing already set in stone of Tanisha Hodgson and Chantal Swiszcz, doubles is still up in the air.

“Doubles is a pivotal part of collegiate tennis and we want to make sure we put the best people we have out there in certain situations, but also have pairings where the two will work well together,” Dixon said. “Teamwork is crucial in those moments, and can make or break a match.”

Dixon will look for “mental toughness” out of her players during match play this weekend to see if they have what it takes to compete over the long haul.

“I want to see that toughness and intensity in my players in a competitive setting,” she said. “It’s like when someone wants to pick a fight with you and tries to knock you down…I want to see these girls rise up and fight back. That’s what it takes to win, and I think they have it.”

This weekend’s play will help determine pairings and who fits where for upcoming opponents, but Dixon hopes that this is only the start of a historic season to come.

“This is the best group I can remember ever having, in terms of talent and depth,” Dixon said. “These girls want to be there in the end come tournament time in April. They have to be the ones who want it more than anyone because they’re the ones out there competing. I think they have that drive because I can see it in their eyes.”

The team will compete in two rounds of play both Friday and Saturday, as well as another round on Sunday before it gears up for Holy Cross late next week.

Scott Cournoyer can be reached at [email protected]