With a .500 start to the season, the women’s team (2-2) and men’s team (1-1) might not show terrific promise in their records, but there is hope for both teams that this could be a successful year.
The women’s team began their season on a high note with a 4-3 victory at UC Irvine, their first win over a Division I school since 2014.
“That was an awesome way to start the year for sure. Especially playing up at their place,” said head coach Curt Wheeler, who is beginning his fourth season at the helm. “They underestimated us a little bit, but the girls were ready to play. They showed the hard work and the preparation they put in all through the month of January to lead up to that. They came out and played great tennis, fearless tennis. That’s what I love to see and that’s when we’re playing our best.
Junior Nicole Camaratta, who has been with the team since her freshman year, feels that recent roster additions have led to the team improving over last season.
“I would say our level has definitely stepped up from last year,” said Camaratta. “We’ve got a lot of good, young recruits. We also have a larger team this year, which is nice because we have depth.”
When asked about key players that have stood out, Camaratta refers to her doubles partner, Ellie Gamble.
“She’s been playing really well,” said Camaratta. “She also has good sportsmanship on the court, which is really important to all of us.”
The women’s team proceeded to lose at San Diego State, another Division I school, and also lost their most recent matchup against Azusa Pacific. With a convincing home win over San Diego Christian, their record stands at 2-2.
Despite only playing two matchups, coach Wheeler feels that the men’s team, which includes five seniors, has improved from last season.
“We added a couple new players,” said Wheeler. “Thomas Dafcik is new and slotted in as the number one player right away. We also added Ben Smit, a transfer from a Division I school.”
Senior CJ Erion agreed that Dafcik was one of the most significant additions to the men’s team.
“Thomas, the new German guy we got for this semester, has been doing well throughout scrimmages,” said Erion. “I think he’ll be a key player throughout the season.”
With a home win over San Diego Christian and a tough road loss at Azusa Pacific, the men’s team’s record currently stands at 1-1.
With both teams off to .500 starts, coach Wheeler feels that primary focus should be put on each individual matchup.
“I’m not a big one on setting expectations when it comes to end goals. I like to focus a lot on process,” said Wheeler. “One thing for us that we talk about a lot is controlling things that we have control over. An acronym that I talk about a lot is ‘ACE.’ That’s attitude, concentration and effort. Those are three things that we talk about all the time, in terms of if you do those well and you execute those well, you’re going to play well, you’re going to win and you’re going to be successful.”
While setting expectations for end goals wasn’t Wheeler’s priority, he did acknowledge that qualifying for the Regional playoffs would be significant for both teams.
“For sure, we would love to make it to the Regional playoffs. It is something we have not done since we joined Division II,” said Wheeler. “I think for both teams, that’s definitely a goal to reach at the end of the year.”
While a playoff berth would be seen as a tremendous accomplishment, more than anything else, coach Wheeler is curious to see how the fresh sets of players will perform over the course of the season.
“I’m just excited to see where they go,” said Wheeler. “We have a great mix of new players, seniors, middle classmen, and they make a great team dynamic.”
The women’s team’s next home game will be on Friday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. against Cal State LA. The men’s team’s next home game will be on Monday, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. against Brandeis.