The University of Richmond men’s tennis team has added a talented group of freshmen after losing six of eight players from last year’s team, according to head coach Ben Johnson.
Among this year’s eight-man team are six freshmen, which co-captain Dylan Trent said was quite uncommon. “We had eight guys last year, too, but four graduated, one quit and another transferred,” Trent said. Fellow co-captain Ethan Dunbar is the only other returning player, which leaves room for “a huge number of variables,” Johnson said.
“Ethan and Dylan have put in the effort and progressed as players,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to establish a relationship with my freshmen.”
Johnson opened official practices on Monday. He previously scheduled the first official practice for Tuesday, but “everybody was in shape and adjusting better than I anticipated,” Johnson said.
Richmond opens its non-championship, fall season on Sept. 20 with a tournament at East Carolina University (ECU). In addition to ECU, Richmond will compete against James Madison University (JMU) and Navy at the tournament.
Dunbar said the team’s goals haven’t changed since last year. “Every year the goals are to win conference and get ranked in the spring,” he said. Last year, Richmond finished 13-12 in season play and finished seventh in the A-10.
Although Charlotte, Xavier and Temple left the Atlantic-10 conference this year, Richmond will have to get past the VCU team, which took the title last April.
To prepare for the season, Johnson has produced footage of each player during individual sessions.
“For some kids, it’s the best way to learn,” Johnson said. “I could say something a thousand times to some players and then I’ll show them on the film and it will just click.”
Freshman Canyon Teague also finds the footage productive. “Seeing what Coach is actually seeing allows me to understand what he wants me to do differently,” Teague said.
To correct mistakes and improve overall play, Johnson emphasizes hard work over talent: “We probably have one of the more talented teams we’ve had historically, but talent doesn’t win matches. That’s why I preach attitude and effort.”
So far, Trent has been impressed with the underclassmen’s motivation. “Everyone is working very hard and seems really motivated, Trent said, “and that’s what we need to carry us through the season.”
Playing at the collegiate level for the first time, Johnson said the freshmen face a “decent jump from junior tennis in terms of physicality.”
Jonathan Quenard, one of the freshmen, said he is ready for the challenge. “When you’re playing in juniors you fight for yourself. When you’re on a team you fight for everyone,” he said.
Contact reporter Clay Helms at email@example.com