By Tommaso Villa
Tryouts are officially over and a brand new, larger tennis team is now ready to represent William Peace University during this current season.
Both the women and men’s rosters are finally assembled with newcomers and returning athletes. The female group is composed of seven people led by Hayley McNair, Amber Riggs and Mackenzie Braden.
The male team formed of nine players sees Dylan Betancourt as returning top player, followed by Joe Stephens and Daniel Hidalgo.
The group is larger than it has been during the past years, which impacts the season positively, favoring substitutions and having players ready for both singles and doubles.
The team practice routine began on Feb. 3. The players’ training will alternate exercises on the court and at the campus’ gym (next to the softball field). Most home matches will be held at Pullen Park. The first official home match is set on Feb. 28 against the University of Lynchburg at 1:30 p.m.
The occasion will see both men and women face their first opponents of the season. A number of 14 matches have been organized for this competitive season, which will culminate at 3 p.m. on April 18 against one of Peace’s greatest rivals: Averett University.
With new gear, a complete schedule and with great passion for the sport, WPU’s tennis team is now ready to face its adversaries. All practices are going to take place at the all-girls school, Saint Mary’s, in downtown Raleigh. Because of the campus’ policies, WPU gear is going to have to be visibly worn at all times to ensure a respectful attitude toward the school’s rules.
“One of my philosophies as a coach is to challenge my players athletically and to set them up for success academically,” said Rachael James, the new tennis head coach. “In order to do this, it involves teamwork between the player and I. This is what I’m hoping for this year and for the years to come.”
The coach addressed the critical importance she gives to the bond between instructor and athlete. Her objective for this season is to establish a clear balance between the students’ academic and athletic path in order to make them successful both on and off the court.
It is vital for her to construct a significant relation with each team member, James said, making them learn from their mistakes.
“This season and every season, my goal is to look at the individual player and strive to make significant improvements to their game,” said James.