Friday, December 9, 2022

Tennis boasts improved season

By Collin Bolebruch & Liam Sample

The Plattsburgh Cardinals women’s tennis team’s 2022 season was a year marked by development. The Cardinals (7-5) finished the year with a 3-4 SUNYAC record and missed the conference playoffs by one game.

 The team had an identical result in the conference last season at 3-4, looking from the outside in on the postseason. Plattsburgh beat the Oswego Lakers, the Brockport Golden Eagles and the Fredonia Blue Devils in both seasons. The Cardinals didn’t improve on its previous record, but the games tell a different story.

Plattsburgh (8-7) lost 0-9 to the Geneseo Knights (9-8) last year in a pivotal matchup that would determine both team’s playoff status. Both teams met in each other’s penultimate conference game this year with the winner likely postseason-bound. Plattsburgh lost by a score of 4-5. One set was the difference between postseason play and an early offseason for the Cardinals.

“Each player kind of came back [from summer] with something that they worked on, that they left last season and were like, ‘Alright, I want to get better at it’ and came back much stronger,” Head Coach Kelci Henn said. “We really shifted our team mindset. We kind of went from, ‘Alright, we’re just here, we’re going to play out matches and that’s that’ to really shifting gears to like ‘we’re all in this together. Everyone’s match kind of comes into play.’”

The team featured two seniors, Cydney Bond and Alyana Leandry. Henn said Bond has been a “phenomenal captain” and Leandry has taken the first-year players and transfers “under her wing”. She also said that the team is “well aware” that they’re losing the seniors, but she doesn’t think it’s “anything our team can’t handle”.

The pair was often the No. 1 and No. 2 for singles matches and both played in doubles.  Bond finished the season with a 2-8 record, while Leandry was 5-6 in singles play. Sophomore Hallie Hurwitz played alongside Bond in doubles for five matches, notching a 1-4 record.

“I’m going to miss [Bond] so much, I was lucky to play doubles with her for a long time,” Hurwitz said. 

Four of the nine players rostered this season are juniors. This group will likely fill the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots and the leadership roles the seniors held. Henn said she feels “a lot of potential” in the “younger lineup” especially. She also said “they all have the potential” to step up as a captain. 

Junior Jackie Svantner attained a 6-1 singles record, ending the season with five consecutive singles wins. Fellow junior Sarah Benowitz, who transferred to Plattsburgh two seasons ago, had a 7-5 record and played in the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 spot during the season. 

Henn said she is “pretty confident” junior captain Nicole Svantner will remain in her position. Nicole Svantner posted a 7-3 record in singles this season and was 9-2 in doubles when paired with Samantha Svantner. 

“I think I have that experience connecting with [Henn] and then bringing that back to the team and really keeping them on track with what we’re supposed to be doing and how we carry and represent ourselves as a team,” Nicole Svantner said. “Just remaining everyone of their role they play on the team.”

The Cardinals are anticipating fresh faces on the team next season. It has recruits that have been considering playing for Plattsburgh. Henn said the switch from high school to college tennis “comes as a shock,” but she thinks the team has a good support system.

“Being surrounded by the team and positive energy and just overall guidance between myself and my assistant coaches, I think our recruits coming in fare pretty well with our team,” Henn said.

 Henn, in her second season, received high praises from her players. Hurwitz said she enjoys the “young energy” Henn brings to the team. Henn graduated from Plattsburgh in 2019 and played on the team for four seasons.

Hurwitz said because Henn was a member of the team, she is “really good at relating to us.” Hurwitz told a specific story where she “freaked out” during a match, thinking the other team had broken a rule. She was quickly calmed down by Henn and went on to win that match. Hurwits said it was an example of “me turning around my mentality and it was thanks to [Henn.]”

Nicole Svantner said Henn has some great drills that the team does in practice and provided a lot for the seniors. Henn had positive feedback for her players. She said Nicole Svantner has refined her “groundstroke” with “punch to her strokes” and stronger and sharper forehands.

Plattsburgh faced adversity at various points during the season. Hurwitz said some players missed “chunks of time” because of illness or other conflicts. This forced the Cardinals to adapt and move players to different spots, a “good improvement” for the team. 

The team aims to continue the upward trend set by this season. Plattsburgh’s last SUNYAC Playoff appearance came in 2017. Henn has playoff experience with the Cardinals as a player, but not yet as a coach.

“It’s just such an honor to play tennis in college. It’s such a fun sport and especially because we have such a small team, I found that really comforting,” Hurwitz said. “You get to know all the girls really well, you travel together and you form really deep bonds. Spending all that time together and it being such a small team, I feel like everybody got really close.”

Ryan Nista / Cardinal Points Ryan Nista

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