With a new infusion of young talent in the form of highly touted recruits, the women’s tennis team looks to improve significantly over the course of the next few years. The Argus sat down with Head Coach Mike Fried after Tuesday’s practice to talk about the excitement surrounding the upcoming season.
The Argus: How is practice going so far?
Mike Fried: Going well! It’s an exciting group of a lot of young kids.
A: I wanted to talk more about that. How many new recruits are there for the freshman class?
MF: Five women on a 10-person roster, so half the team are freshmen. Eudice Chong is from Hong Kong and is probably one of the more exciting recruits anywhere in the country. She’s got a very high junior international ranking and she actually has a [WTA] women’s professional ranking. Everybody is very excited to have her and incorporate her into the team. In addition, there are four other great freshmen as well, including Nicole McCann from Amherst, and we are very happy to take her away from her hometown school. Dasha Dubinsky is from California, and she’s a great singles and doubles player. Aashli Budhiraja is also from Northern California, and [she’s] another really, really solid immediate impact kind of addition. Helen Klass-Warch is from Minnesota, and I anticipate the same thing. I expect all five of the freshmen to make an immediate impact on the team.
A: There are new captains this season since last year’s leaders, Nicki Softness ’14 and Grace Smith ’14, graduated. What are your expectations from the new captains Anna Howard ’15 and Maddie James ’16?
MF: They’re going to provide great senior leadership. Even though Maddie is only a junior, senior is relative when the team is so young. I think that they’re really ideal people to integrate such a big group of underclassmen into the kind of mindset of the program that we’re trying to put together.
A: Since NESCAC matches don’t start until the spring, what are your expectations for the fall?
MF: We’re still very much a program in transition as we raise the bar in terms of our recruiting and the goals we’re setting. I think we’re trying to build a foundation of cohesiveness and support of confidence, belief, and work ethic that will carry over through the off-season and into the spring, the heart of our NESCAC season.
A: Your raising the bar has become clear in the past few years. With Wesleyan not having as strong a record as other NESCAC schools, when you met with these recruits, what did you say to them?
MF: I think that my philosophy coming in [as Head Coach] was that looking at the Division III national rankings and the traditional tennis powerhouses, these other schools are, without too many exceptions, the premiere academic schools in the country. I very much believe that Wesleyan is absolutely in the mix of those types of schools and that the academic opportunity on the table was on par with these other [colleges] that happen to have the strongest tennis programs in the country. We then used that as the backbone for our recruiting.
A: This weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 6, you’re going to have your first competitive match play of the year, right?
MF: Yes. It’s a doubles-only tournament. Wesleyan is going to be the only school in Division III, while the rest will be Division I.
A: Is the competition pretty stiff at this tournament?
MF: Yes, it should be. We are playing at the Division I level, and I think part of the attraction is playing at that level. At the same time, we are feeling pretty good about holding our own against those teams.