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Women’s Tennis Players Focus on Fun Factor as They Learn and Grow

11/27/17


The 2017 women's tennis team, kneeling from left, Sarah Gandepudi, Melissa Robbins and Wit Kyaw; top row from left, Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, Sofia Stepanoff, Allyson Hing and Assistant Coach Barb Pleva. Not pictured: Assistant Coach Ralph Bencivengo.

West Windsor, N.J. – When an athletic team completes its schedule with no notches in the win column, some would consider it a lost season.

But you would not be talking to Marc Vecchiolla, head coach for women’s tennis at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).

At the end of the spring semester, Vecchiolla was expecting nine women to join the roster for the fall season ahead. But only one, Allyson Hing, returned as promised. “So, we needed to build up the roster and it wasn’t until the last match that we had five players,” Vecchiolla explained. (A full team includes six players.)

Playing with four on the roster,Mercer was forced to forfeit three points out of a possible nine in every match. Hing, who had played at no. 4 last season, moved to no. 1.

“Allyson improved a lot since last year, but that was a pretty big jump. She was facing the toughest competition in every match,” Vecchiolla said.

Several students who joined the team were beginners, and Vecchiolla notes that they learned a lot of tennis in a short time. 

They were enthusiastic and they enjoyed themselves,” he said, adding that the beginners played in the no. 3 and no. 4 spots.

Vecchiolla and his assistant coaches focused on making tennis “the happiest part of our players’ day. In that, I believe we succeeded. They improved and they had fun. There was no pressure and no expectations.”

Vecchiolla recalls one of the most satisfying moments of the season. “At the dinner after the Region 19 tournament, no.3 singles player Melissa Robbins said, ‘Coach, I fell in love with tennis this year. I was looking for something to do at Mercer. I wanted to be part of something.’”

Vecchiolla believes that’s what college sports, especially at a community college, should be all about. “Your team becomes like a family. They are your group on campus,” he said, adding that team members have continued to play tennis together at the college courts even after the conclusion of the season.

The 2017 roster included Hing and Robbins, along with Wit Kyaw, Sarah Gandepudi,and Sofia Stepanoff, who joined the squad for the final match.

“The fall season comes hard and fast. It does not leave a lot of time for recruitment or practices,” Vecchiolla said, noting the team’s bruising schedule of 11 matches and a tournament in just four weeks.

Vecchiolla adds that the women’s season had a silver lining for the men’s team, whose season begins in March. “The men practiced with the women’s team. They helped the women learn new skills and, in the process, they all improved,” Vecchiolla said.

Next year, the women’s program will transition from the current NJCAA Division III to Division I, which plays its season in the spring. With the team’s move to Division I, the higher out-of-county, out-of-state and international tuition rates will be waived, which is expected to enhance recruitment efforts.

Vecchiolla was assisted this season by Ralph Bencivengo and Barbara Pleva.

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