Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Chanel Glasper looks to go out on top for the UMass tennis team

Chanel Glasper (Rehan Telat/Daily Collegian)
Chanel Glasper (Rehan Telat/Daily Collegian)

Jessica Podlofsky recorded her 68th singles victory on March 19, 2014, setting the Massachusetts women’s tennis record and breaking the previous record set by Michelle Spiess in 2007. Podlofsky went on to win six more singles matches, ending her career last spring with 74 victories.

Fast-forward to this season and it appears Podlofsky’s tenure at the top of the UMass record book is already coming to an end.

Chanel Glasper, senior captain of this year’s team, has had an illustrious career of her own and it is now her turn to seize the spotlight and solidify her legacy as one of the most successful Minutewomen of all-time.

After a three-set tiebreak win (5-7, 6-0, 4-3) against Albany on Saturday, Mar 28, Glasper pushed her singles win total to 73, just one victory behind her former teammate. With four regular season matches left, both Glasper and UMass coach Judy Dixon are confident the record is as good as broken.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in,” Glasper said. “It’s just something that I never really fathomed would happen when I came here four years ago.

“We were talking about it last year, that it was a possibility. (Podlofsky) was trying to get all the wins she could to make it hard on me, so I can’t wait to call her up and give her a hard time about it. But I can’t even really put it into words. … I hope the team is really successful but I hope no one breaks it for a while.”

Hitting the ground running

Glasper’s road toward breaking Podlofsky’s record started long before she even stepped onto the UMass campus.

“I started (playing tennis) when I was four years old,” Glasper said. “My dad put me in the sport because he knew that I was going to be tall and he wanted me to play an individual sport. …When I was growing up, I also played soccer and basketball but this was all before age 11, so it wasn’t really serious.”

By the time she turned 11, Glasper had focused her attention on tennis. Between practicing and watching Venus and Serena Williams and Andre Agassi on television, Glasper dedicated much of her youth to the game she loved until she was recruited by Dixon as a highly touted prospect out of Plano, Texas.

She eventually made the jump to the East Coast to become a Minutewoman. Once she arrived on campus in 2011, Glasper proved she was ready to make a major impact on the team immediately.

“When I came in my freshman year, I felt like the typical freshman: wide-eyed and really energetic and thinking I could win everything,” Glasper said. “I set the bar really high for myself.”

And set the bar she did.

Glasper charged onto the Atlantic 10 scene, smashing the UMass single-season singles victories record – also previously held by Spiess – winning 28 matches in her first year.

“I was pretty much only focused on tennis,” Glasper said. “Sophomore year I started to level out a lot more…I started to get more involved on campus.”

Glasper’s massive wave of success her freshman year proved to be too much to replicate during her sophomore and junior campaigns but she continued to be a model of consistency on the team in doubles and at No. 5 and 6 singles; she recorded 30 wins in singles, and another 30 wins in doubles over her second and third years.

Building the program

With a few years of collegiate experience under her belt, it was in Glasper’s junior year that she began to embrace a leadership role on the team.

“My freshman and sophomore year I was really close with the juniors and seniors on the team,” Glasper said. “After they graduated I felt like there was an opportunity to carry on as a leader myself.”

At the beginning of this year, Dixon put full faith in Glasper, naming her the solitary captain of a team with just four upperclassmen – one of which was Carol Benito, who was a newcomer herself having transferred to UMass over the summer.

“It’s been a lot of pressure,” Glasper said. “I don’t take being captain lightly at all.

“In the fall semester it was a little hard being the only one. I realized that I didn’t have anyone to defer to, to bounce ideas off of, to help me out but one of the juniors this year, Arielle (Griffin), has really stepped up and been helping me and I’ve been bouncing ideas off of her. She brings a great work ethic and energy so it takes a lot of pressure off of me.”

With the prospect of leading the team into her senior season on the horizon, Glasper and Dixon worked diligently during the summer, reworking the veteran’s game.

“We made some major changes to her forehand,” Dixon said, “She allowed that to happen with the idea that there was no guarantee that it would work but it certainly has created a different Chanel. … Chanel really is playing the best tennis of her life now, her senior year.

“That’s unusual and that’s phenomenal.”

With a renewed game and a highly talented young team pushing her forward, Glasper is in the midst of a renaissance season. She is 15-6 in singles this year and has found a great doubles partner in sophomore Anna Woosley – they currently boast a 12-4 doubles record.

Swan song

With no intention of pursuing a professional tennis career after graduation, the stage is set for Glasper to end her time in Amherst, and as a student-athlete, with a record-breaking season.

Glasper will leave behind a young team that appears ready to compete for the A-10 championship for years to come and a legacy as a pillar of the UMass program for the last four years.

“She knows that she’s playing the best tennis of her career, she knows that her career is about to end,” Dixon said. “You can’t say enough about this young woman. What she’s done for the program is outstanding.”

With the end of her tennis career looming, Glasper has understandably mixed emotions about graduation and her final matches as a Minutewoman.

“It wasn’t me on my own. I had to work hard, but I worked with Judy a lot,” Glasper said. “She changed a lot of my game which has gotten me where I am now.

Glasper added: “It’s definitely bittersweet, but I think that this year’s just been so amazing that I can’t really even ask for more.”

Glasper will have her first chance to tie Podlofsky’s career singles record this Saturday as UMass (10-4) takes on Fairleigh Dickinson (1-11) at the Bay Road Tennis Club in Amherst.

Arthur Hayden can be reached at [email protected].

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    ReggieApr 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Wahoo. Amazing. Go UMass