By Andrew Smith
In the 2022 season, women’s tennis finished with a record of 9-9 and qualified for the NE10 Championship. Sadly, their campaign would end with a loss to Southern New Hampshire University in the semifinals.
Junior finance major Caterina Federici reflected on the disappointing finish. “Last season was a tough lesson for everybody on the team. After the loss in the semifinals, we knew what to improve and how to start a new season.”
Federici stressed the importance of improving the team’s overall physical health. “[It] was certainly one of the most problematic factors after so many injuries on the team. In college tennis, you cannot afford to have injuries when you have a team of 7-8 players when the minimum is 6 to play a match. More than ever this year, we have 6 players who must take care of our mental and physical health.”
Second-year physics major Sanne Gilje expressed similar concerns. “In the off-season, I did a lot of knee rehabilitation, and this year, I think I have been better prepared for the season. I have also worked closely with coaches and trainers to take care of and prevent injuries.”
“We also have new players this year that are very capable of playing competitive matches and keeping up with the conference level,” Federici added.
The Panthers are already putting that practice to action as they got off to an excellent start in 2023. They opened the season with a three-game homestand and defeated Jefferson University, Franklin Pierce University and Saint Michael’s College. Then, the Panthers defeated the team that ended last year's season by defeating Southern New Hampshire University by a score of 5-2.
Both Gilje and Federici stressed how important it was for team morale to defeat Southern New Hampshire University. Federici reflected, “It was a day of high-quality tennis, where we didn’t just show our potential but also team connection and concentration during the long matches.”
“I felt that this match built a lot of confidence for the team, which is important going into the last matches of the season and hopefully playoffs,” Gilje expressed.
An ingredient to their recipe for success is the strong bond that exists throughout the team. Federici explained, “We have great team chemistry on the team. Everyone is excited to play every single match. We have a good time on the court; it is important to always have fun. College tennis requires discipline and dedication both in the class and on the court. Our mental health during this journey is our top priority, and we always try to have each other’s back during the year.”
Gilje added about the importance of working together as a team and believing in one another. “I think it’s been a combination of building a team and finding what type of team we are and want to be. Small, seemingly insignificant things like always playing a round of uno before a match can do a lot to get hyped before a match and build a team.”
In addition, the team consists of international students from different areas of the world. Federici emphasized, “We try to cultivate a family atmosphere each day, not only during practices but also in our everyday lives off the court.”
The hard work has paid off for our Panthers as they were named NE10 Regular Season Champions for the first time since 2019. This feat is even more impressive as some of their conference opponents have not finished their schedule yet and they still will not be able to catch the Panthers.
Gilje, who was recently named Northeast-10 Player of the Week, reflected on capturing the regular season title. “I felt very excited about the team winning the regular season this year and even more motivated and excited for the playoffs.”
Be sure to keep cheering women’s tennis on as they compete year-round.