It is highly possible that one of the TJC tennis teams will win the 50th national championship for the school in May if another sport doesn’t beat them to it.
Last year the teams brought home the school’s 48th and 49th championships, each winning a national title for the fourth year in a row.
“ … Coach Connell’s men’s and women’s tennis teams will both enter this Spring season as defending national champions,” said Athletic Director Dr. Tim Drain.
This spring has many opportunities in store for both teams with standout players.
Representing the women are Joanna Savva, who was the 2013 NJCAA Doubles Champion and Fausthyara Pietersz, who is currently No. 2 in the nation.
The men’s tennis team features Mante Cutura, who was the 2013 NJCAA singles champion and ranked No. 1 in the nation. The team also includes a new player from South Africa, Vaughn Hunter.
The women’s team will me made up of all returning players from the Fall season. The men’s team returning players, besides Cutura and Hunter, are James Martell, Ryan Hudelson and Dillion Eizember.
The teams will combine to compete in 43 tournaments this season. The men will have 20 and the women will have 23. TJC will host 11 of the women’s and nine of the men’s tournaments.
“One of the best ways to be prepared is to play a lot of matches,” Head Coach Dash Connell said. “Beginning in March, TJC will be hosting a big ASA tournament here.”
ASA is a junior college in New York, originally known as Advanced Software Analysis.
The tennis teams as a whole, including coaches, have their own personal motivation instead of only winning.
“I really try to promote the idea of getting better every day. I’ve heard other coaches in other sports say that and explain it in their book and it makes sense to me. We try to incorporate that as much as possible here,” Connell said.
“Winning is fun, but in the end, we have a couple of jobs. Our other job is prepare these students for a four-year school and the best way to do that is to get better on the tennis court and in the classroom as people every day. It’s easy to get caught up in are we winning or not winning. If we think in this way of are we getting better this week than last week, that makes it easier and less pressure. We can’t win every game.”
Players know that part of the game is also in their heads. They do many things to stay ready.
“I like to sing certain songs during the matches while playing,” women’s player Kerry Wiegand said.
“I am very superstitious and it makes me play better,” Cutura said, although he wouldn’t share his superstitions.
Being the four-time defending national champion brings added pressure to win, and fans can expect the teams to be loud and proud.
“Energy and excitement from them,” said Cutura. “I am super excited for this season.”
“Expect us to be loud, and we want our fans to be loud with us also since we are so loud,” Wiegand said.