With an abbreviated spring season last year and an opportunity to play this fall, the boys and girls tennis teams are ramping back up to full competition this season.
“It’s exciting to compete against new schools twice a week,” said boys co-captain Luke Louchheim ’22. “The competition and sportsmanship helps us all bond together as a whole.”
For Louchheim and many other students who started in 2020, this is their first year of full competition in the Hotchkiss tennis program. Girls co-captain Rena Peng ’22 noted that only one girl on her team was here as a prep in 2019 for the last full season.
The crucible of competition has increased the bonds between teammates, she said. “Though the team has always been particularly tight-knit, having matches count for real points brings us closer and changes this individual sport into a team effort,” said Peng.
Early results are promising, with the girls undefeated in their first three matches, and the boys sporting a 3-1 record and a second-place finish at this year’s KITT tournament.
One of the most important priorities in helping the players return to a full schedule is keeping them healthy, said tennis program director Edgar Giffenig. “Going from hitting a couple of times per week to six days a week can be hard on the body,” he said. “You need to balance intense practices that get players ready with enough rest and conditioning work to keep everyone improving and healthy.”
Giffenig credited director of athletic performance and fitness Brodie Quinn for his work in helping both teams work their way up to game shape over the course of the year.
Another advantage that this year’s players had again was a fall co-curricular option in tennis. “The fall concentration in tennis was very useful. Players got a chance to think tennis way before the season and that carried through the winter,” said Giffenig.
Both teams have high ambitions for the ends of their seasons, including repeating as Founders League champions and competing for a high place in New Englands. In 2019, the last time each title was awarded, both teams won Founders and the girls finished second at New Englands.
Part of the reason for optimism is the continued improvement by returning players from last year. Giffenig emphasized particularly the growth of the youngers players, and assistant coaches Josh Smith and Maja Clark noted the depth of their rosters this year.
“Our bottom of the line-up is much stronger than last year,” said Giffenig.
Boys co-captain Keith Matanachai ’22 said that he and the other captains – Louchheim, Peng, Jerry Qiao ’22, and Eliza Muse ’23 – will need to primarily lead by example. “A large part of tennis is mental, specifically the mindset that players have,” he said. “Being a captain means embodying the right attitude, one that is calm but also celebratory when you hit a great shot.”