Lehigh freshmen Rachel Buchinsky practices her swing in preparation for the league championship at the end of April. The women’s tennis team has had several wins so far, however, due to COVID, the season is limited to eight matches. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Women’s tennis looks to build on first half of season

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The women’s tennis team has avoided COVID-19-related postponements while getting off to a strong 4-1 start. 

They boast shutout victories against both Loyola and Colgate, while their lone loss is against Villanova. 

A normal season would consist of an average of 20 matches. This year, however, the pandemic has shortened the length of the season to only eight matches. 

While this is an unprecedented change, it encourages a more focused approach to each match, freshman Anushka Dania said.

“Everyone is taking every match really seriously because of the shortened season,” Dania said.

While cancellations have not been an issue thus far, there are other obstacles that the team has encountered. 

The team did not have access to the tennis courts during the fall offseason due to high positivity rates on campus. Having teammates around for support during this time lessened the impact of not having a normal offseason, freshman Rachel Buchinsky said.

“Once we were shut down in the fall, it was sort of hard to stay motivated,” Buchinsky said. “I think we were able to use each other to motivate one another, whether that was going on runs since the courts were shut down, or doing Zoom workouts. Having each other there definitely kept me on my toes.”

Buchinsky attributes the team’s success to the positive energy at practices and matches, as well as good team camaraderie, even in the face of COVID-19 related hurdles. 

“Even if someone isn’t having their best day, we’re still around to pick each other up,” Buchinsky said.

Beyond the team’s strong start, the return to a team setting has been a relief after a year without competition, Dania said.

“Being in a team setting was something I really missed,” Dania said. “I missed the team environment in which someone is always there for you, cheering for you. I also missed being able to be loud and vocal in support of teammates at matches and practice.” 

Coach Sarah Hendrix also noted the importance of building chemistry even though tennis is an individual sport. 

“We’ve worked hard on building [our team chemistry]and making it a priority,” Hendrix said. “It takes a full team-first mindset to win, and we’ve been spending a lot of time on that.” 

To add to the team’s success, the Patriot League has begun allowing players to bring two guests to spectate at outdoor matches, which is a welcome development for athletes. 

Dania said if one of her teammates doesn’t have fans at a match, she and her teammates make an effort to provide extra support. 

With only three matches remaining, the team’s goal for the rest of the season is to win the Patriot League Championship, capping off a successful season.

“In order to do that, with only a few weeks of practice left before the tournament, everyone is giving their best effort in practice and treating every practice match like a real one,” said Dania.

Buchinsky added that playing the ball, instead of the opponent, is key to remaining composed during competitive matches against other strong teams.

Hendrix emphasized the importance of getting to the net in both singles and doubles in order to  play a more aggressive style of tennis. 

The team plays Navy, Army, and Lafayette to wrap up the season, before beginning the league championship on Thursday, April 29, in Annapolis.

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