Over spring break, the Lehigh women’s and men’s tennis teams headed west to play top-tier competition and bond as a team.
The two teams spent a week in Ontario, California, where they were finally able to play outdoor tennis against ranked Division II and Division III teams. Coach Wouter Hendrix said the purpose of this trip was to gain outdoor experience, play more challenging matches and bring the teams closer together.
The women’s team played two matches, one against Azusa Pacific University and another against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges. Although they lost both 7-2, junior Christina Auyeung said the score did not reflect just how competitive these matches were.
“We played our hearts out, and we learned a lot from it,” Auyeung said.
Senior Jamie Campisi agreed the exposure to teams who have a different style of play is really helpful in pointing out their own areas of weakness. Campisi said the California teams were consistent in not making any errors. She said every point had to be earned, which is not necessarily what is seen in the opponents Lehigh normally plays.
“It’s usually a little bit more of a slap fest to see who makes an error first whereas these teams were very steady and very patient,” Campisi said.
Both Campisi and Auyeung said a big takeaway is being more aggressive in doubles.
“Our coaches were telling us we were playing very reactive,” Campisi said. “We would let the other teams impose their will on us. We want to try and be the aggressor of the two teams and let the other teams react to what we’re doing.”
The men’s tennis team played three matches as well against Azusa Pacific University, University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon University.
While they also did not win a match, junior Jack Petersen said playing USC was a great experience.
“They have a pretty big stadium. It was a pretty cool experience for us looking up and seeing our names on the scoreboard,” Petersen said.
Petersen also said it was helpful to see how “the best of the best” play and how Lehigh stacked up against the higher-level competition.
“Given that you’re the underdog, you have to play a bit more aggressively and go for shots you wouldn’t normally go for,” Petersen said. “You’ve got to loosen up and play with a little more confidence.”
Besides playing against new competition, the men’s tennis team had the opportunity to watch the BNP Paribas Open, a professional tennis tournament commonly known as the Indian Wells Masters, while the women’s team spent the day exploring Santa Monica, California.
Petersen said since this is a smaller tournament it was a really great opportunity to see the professionals up close and learn a lot by watching them play.
Senior Ethan Bogard said being able to spend time as a team, not only playing but watching tennis, will ensure that what they learned individually will have a positive effect on the group as a whole.
“They were intense within themselves,” Bogard said. “They seemed very relaxed on the court, which is something as a team we are trying to do more.”
Petersen also hopes the team will become more relaxed on the court. He said when everyone’s in high spirits and having fun, the team usually plays better.
While neither team earned a victory, Hendrix said they plan to use what they learned on the courts as motivation to propel them into conference play.
“I think the trip made us tougher and more self aware of the things we need to improve upon,” Hendrix said. “While we did not achieve the results we wanted, we definitely are in a better place as a team and can’t wait to tackle the next challenges ahead.”