c/o Avi Friederich, Staff Photographer

c/o Avi Friederich, Staff Photographer

The women’s tennis team is surging into the 2021-22 season fresh off their second consecutive NESCAC championship and another deep run into the NCAA tournament. They came up just short of their second title in three years (due to COVID-19 they did not compete in Fall 2020) but are ready for another competitive season. With only a few students graduating last year and an exciting crop of new first-years, the Cardinals and their coach Mike Fried hope to bring home a national trophy to Wesleyan in the spring. 

Despite the team’s obvious prowess in the NESCAC and beyond, Coach Fried was understated when speaking about his team’s success.

“[The team] downplays expectations every year…” Fried said. “As a team we know we can compete with anyone, but we have to stay process orientated and build confidence as the season progresses.”

Tennis is one of the few sports that plays year-round, with tournaments in the fall and conference play in the spring. A spectator can only guess the mental toughness a player must posses to continue to battle each and every day for the entire school year. As a result, working to raise team morale and energy is key to keeping players mentally prepared and physically ready. 

“Meditation and yoga are huge aspects of my life,” Sophia Henderson ’22 said. “The men’s and women’s teams are really close; we do team activities like hiking, and before practice, we have a group meditation.” 

A lot of the team’s success can be attributed to Fried’s approach to coaching and his attention to players’ wellbeing. There are many different skill sets present on the team, a depth that is visible in the difference between the strategies for doubles and singles matches. The Cardinals heavily prioritize teamwork; when you pass by the Vine St. courts, you can hear cheering and feel the energy up and down the courts, a testament to their supportive culture. And with the women’s practices adjacent to the men’s, an uncommon arrangement according to Coach Fried, the conjoined teams can cheer each other on in practice and in matches, breaking down the gender barrier that so many sports foster and creating a more cohesive community.

Additionally, Coach Fried expects his players to practice as much as they can over the summer but still understands that the players have jobs, internships, and potentially other obligations. Fried said he wants Wesleyan tennis to be consistently at the top of the conference, but he understands that academics and mental health come first. He strives to strike a balance between rigorous training, awareness of player’s interests outside of tennis, and an emphasis on team culture, which makes for a successful team. 

With an upcoming tournament at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday night, the team is anxious and excited to get their season started and claim the glory found in past years. The tournament, which is their first competition of the year, will be especially important in creating that quintessential Cards chemistry. When asked about the distribution of playing time in the first games, Coach Fried acknowledged that only a few players are able to compete at each event. However, he shared that the team attempts to place its youngest members on a fast track for development.

“We incorporate the freshmen immediately, so they will be playing our best players as soon as they arrive, allowing for greater development and exposure,” Fried said.

Looking back on last year before they travel to Boston, Coach Fried recounted his favorite moment of last year: beating out Tufts to secure back-to-back NESCAC titles. The home win signified the growing presence of the women’s tennis team, which had previously never won a NESCAC title before 2019 and had never won a title on their home courts. This is a testament to what Wesleyan women’s tennis is all about: perseverance, culture, and team pride.

Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu.

Eli Seaver can be reached at eseaver@wesleyan.edu. 

  • This should be a good season for the women’s tennis team.