With the tennis team losing the SUNYAC Championship match to SUNY Geneseo for the third year in a row, the Lady Hawks have now finished in either first or second place in the SUNYAC for 12 straight years, going back to their first conference title in 2002.
The Lady Hawks beat SUNY Oswego 5-0 in the quarterfinals and SUNY Cortland 5-0 in the semifinals. Both matches were stopped once the Lady Hawks reached five points per the NCAA rules for NCAA Championship matches, which enforces the first team to five points wins.
Head Coach Rob Bruley said his team played “exceptional,” despite losing in the championship.
Third-year No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles Jessica Schmidt said the loss will motivate the team for the future.
“It never feels good to lose and to lose for the third straight year to the same team is not fun,” she said. “It just makes us want to work harder as a team to try and beat them next year.”
Being a young team with four first-years and only one fourth-year, Bruley said the loss will be a learning moment for the young players.
“Out of the six starters, we had three freshmen,” Bruley said. “I think the freshman were very nervous going into the final, it was one of the biggest matches they’ve ever played, so you can’t teach or buy experience. The experience of being there, getting rid of those nerves is huge.”
Bruley felt for the team’s lone fourth-year, captain Paige Munroe, but she remained positive despite the loss, he said.
Munroe has had an impressive career being named to the First-Team All-SUNYAC Team twice and the Second-Team All-SUNYAC once.
“It’s always tough on the seniors, you want them to go out on a high, but she said she left it all out on the court,” he said. “She’s unbeaten in the conference, so she’s very satisfied with how her senior semester has gone.”
Now, the Lady Hawks will have a few weeks before they start working with New Paltz’s new Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Gary Gall for the remainder of this semester and then the beginning of the spring semester, Bruley said.
Looking forward, Schmidt said she believes the team will have a successful spring season because of the strong opponents they faced in the fall.
“We keep continuing to prove that we are a good team who can compete against these top schools,” Schmidt said. “I am excited to see what’s in store for us in the spring.”
Bruley said the team will start hitting again in early February and that all of the players are excited to start playing again and improve on the team’s ranking.
“They want to learn and they want to improve,” Bruley said. “I want to still prepare as if we’re going to the national championships. I don’t want it to be just going through the motions. We have some very tough matches in the spring, which is the way I always put the schedule together.”
The Lady Hawks have their first match of the spring on April 3 against Roberts Wesleyan University.