By: Caperton Beirne
The UMW tennis teams, both the men’s and women’s, are gearing up for their first scrimmage match on Saturday, Feb. 5 at their home playing field at the Battlefield Complex.
The spring tennis season differs from fall, as fall is individual-oriented with individual rankings, while spring is all about performing as a team.
“I think it’s just more fun to go in there as a team and compete alongside each other,” said Andrew Watson, a junior tennis player and business major.
Watson is heading into his third year on UMW’s tennis team. During the fall 2021 season, he traveled to Georgia to compete in doubles with his partner.
After a fall season of individual accomplishments, the players have been shifting gears toward a team-centered season.
“I haven’t had a full season since my freshman year, so I’m just really excited to play a full one again and be back out on the court,” said biomedical sciences major and senior tennis player Lauren Quinn.
Quinn is stepping into this spring season ready to finish out her career at Mary Washington. As an upperclassman, she is focused on pushing her team to be the best they can be, while also enjoying her last season.
“We made it to the Elite Eight last year,” she said. “That is definitely something that we haven’t done in a while and I feel like us making it that far is kind of really gonna push us to try and do that again.”
The Elite Eight is comprised of the eight final teams in the NCAA tournament, which would put them in the top eight in the country while competing for the NCAA championship.
The women’s tennis team will be traveling to California and Texas this upcoming season, and Quinn sees this as a chance to prove their strength and bond with her team. In California, the women’s team will be competing against Claremont Mudd Scrips, which is currently ranked no. 1 in the country. There’s also strong competition among colleges on the east coast.
“CNU is always a great match. We get really pumped to play them because they are our rival and bring strong competition,” said Quinn.
Watson also views CNU as their “biggest competition.”
“They’re our rivals,” he said. “They always bring high intensity and have lots of talent on their team. It’s tough because we haven’t played some of the new teams yet because they switched the conference up.”
The men’s tennis team will also be traveling to Texas and California for competitions.
“I’m just excited because I feel like our team is so strong this year,” said Watson. “I feel like it’s the best team I’ve been on so far, and we have a lot of really good leadership on the team with our fifth years and seniors.”
Watson and his partner are currently ranked seventh in the country and second in the region. This competitive drive is something he brings to his team and practices.
“My goal is to win the conference with my team. I want the team to go into every match and do their best to win,” said Watson.
In the past year, Mary Washington has switched into the Coast to Coast Conference from the Colonial Athletic Conference. This has added more teams from outside the east coast; Christopher Newport University and Salisbury University remain with the addition of teams from California, such as the University of California Santa Cruz.
Head men’s tennis coach Todd Helbing looks forward to watching the players grow throughout the season.
He’s excited for “seeing if we can help our players get better every day and how they handle high-level competition. Watching them struggle. Watching them overcome. Watching them celebrate when they play a great match. The rewards are many for all of the hard work and it is a joy to help them get those rewards and learn so much about themselves along the way.”
Coming off a strong fall season with two of his players, Andrew Watson and Moses Hutchinson, moving onto Small College Nationals, has heightened the expectations going into this spring. Helbing wants to work with his players to focus on their individual goals and how those can help the team’s overall goal: winning the conference championship.
The men’s and women’s tennis teams have their first home match this Saturday, Feb. 5.