There are two things a person can instantly learn about Tennis Head Coach Rob Bruley just by walking into his office. The first is that Bruley is a man who deeply loves his home country of England. The second is that he is a man who has an infinite amount of love and pride for every tennis team he has coached at New Paltz since his first year in 1998.
However, one of the teams that he will never forget however is this past season’s squad which was just recently honored on Friday, Feb. 11 at the Men’s Basketball game against SUNY Brockport.
“It’s great exposure for the program,” said Bruley about being honored in front of the campus. “Tennis traditionally is not one of these high-profile collegiate sports, so we’re very fortunate. We’re one of the forefront programs in the department and over my 14 years I’ve been here we’ve had major success.”
Bruley looked on with pride as each of his players were announced and handed flowers during the ceremony. The shining moment came when fourth-year captain Stephanie Schara was given the SUNYAC Tennis Conference trophy.
“I’m really happy right now,” said Schara. “It still feels like [winning the conference championship] just happened yesterday.”
After the ceremony, the team stood for pictures and was congratulated by family members that came. The event was something that the players’ families were very excited about.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Synda Willand, first-year member Sharyce Willand’s mother. “Tennis is a spectator sport, and having a large attendance here at the game to see the team honored like this is outstanding.”
While the night was a “great” way to close the chapter on the 2010 fall tennis season, the team is already preparing for their spring season which will include a trip to the 2011 NCAA Div. III Championships. The team will be facing competitors from schools such as Wellesley College, Williams College and UMass Amherst.
“I think a national title is a bit beyond us at the moment,” said Bruley when asked if he thought any of his players could win a national championship. “We’re in a very tight situation in the fact that the Northeast is the hardest tennis region in the country believe it or not. It’s great to be recognized in the tournament and be able to be playing against these teams who really are on par with Division I teams.”
While competing against some of the best schools will be difficult, the Lady Hawks have their own arsenal of talent which they hope will get them their goal of making it past the first round of the championships. The team has a myriad of talent within its roster, including SUNYAC MVP Schara and Lindsay Garyn, both of which will be graduating at the end of this year.
Another key factor for the Hawks will be their amount of chemistry. Despite the fact that tennis isn’t necessarily a team sport, the team is extremely close on and off the court. Not only does Bruley explain this, but the pictures on the wall of his office serve as testament.
“Oh definitely, I think that’s one of our major successes here,” said Bruley. “All of my teams have been like that…they’re always around each other, some room together and some live together. They’re very supportive of each other, not just in playing but academically as well.”
Though the NCAA championships are a long way’s away, the team is already preparing for what’s to come.
“I’m feeling good about it,” said Schara when asked about the team’s start of the spring season and eventual trip to the national championships. “We just started conditioning and we have a lot of tough matches coming up. We’re really just hoping to get through the first couple of rounds, and I think we may be able to do it.”