N.J. - It's been six years since MCCC's women's tennis team
has won the NJCAA Region 19 title. Having earned the title
every year for nine years prior to 2005, the Vikings made
it look almost routine. So this year's win at the Region 19
tournament, played at Gloucester County Community College
Oct. 15-16, is extremely satisfying.
According to Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, the competition in
Region 19 has caught up over the past six years. "The
level of play in our region is really fantastic," he
says. "We wouldn't be where we are this year if we didn't
play such high-level teams. We are from the strongest region
and it makes our players better. Everything came together
over the weekend for us."
That's clearly a result of individual talent and hard work
on the part of the Mercer women. But it's also stems from
the team spirit and sense of fun that Vecchiolla invariably
inspires in his players - whether they win or lose. "Our
goal is always to have fun, learn and work hard. But we like
winning too," he adds.
In the regional tournament, Mercer earned 10 points, followed
by Ocean CC with 8 points, Brookdale with 5, and Gloucester
with 3. The close point totals reflect how well matched these
teams were. "We are just glad we got through it as successfully
as we did. That preparation should really help us at nationals,"
Of course, there was plenty of scoring drama, as always seems
to be the case in team tennis. The Vikings' Kelly Tanzone,
in the no. 5 singles final, faced her Ocean opponent early
in the day on Oct. 16. A win by Tanzone would mean the best
Ocean could hope for in the afternoon's doubles action was
to tie the Vikings in total scoring. When the team had played
Ocean during the regular season, Tanzone had lost 6-1, 6-0.
This time - when it mattered so much more - she won by the
"That indicates a huge improvement on Kelly's part during
the course of the season, something you don't see that often,"
Vecchiolla said. After Tanzone's win, Alina Vitukhnovskaya
won her final at no. 6 over Joanne O'Donnell of Gloucester
6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 and sealed Mercer's victory going into the
Sophomore Alison Noll - the national champ at no. 1 singles
last year - had a great tournament, as expected. She is, according
to Vecchiolla, "the best female player I have coached
in my 15 years at Mercer." Alison won the no. 1 singles
flight by topping Gloucester's Avery Forte in the semifinals
6-0, 6-0 and Brookdale's Heidi Denn 6-0, 6-1 in the finals.
teams with freshman Ewa Szyszko at no. 1 doubles. They suffered
their only regular season defeat against Brookdale early in
the season, which made them even hungrier for a win at the
regional tournament. Vecchiolla says they played their best
match, this time around coming out with a comfortable 6-3,
6-4 win, and now hold a 3-1 head-to-head edge over Brookdale
at first doubles this season.
"It's a great feeling all around. And this year, since
nationals are in the fall, we are fully focused on the national
title. That's always the ultimate goal," he says.
Vikings will compete at the Billie Jean King National Tennis
Center in Flushing, NY, Oct. 26-28 for the Division III national
title. "We are the favorites going in, but anything can
happen," Vecchiolla says.
He reflects back on a season that couldn't have been better.
Losing their first two matches, the Vikings then went on to
win every match thereafter, earning a regular season record
"That's an indication of the commitment of our players
and to the bonding of the team. These girls really care about
each other," according to Vecchiolla. With three sophomore
and three freshmen starters, the second-year players have
taken the freshmen under their wing, an ideal team-building
situation. Sophomores Kati Courtney (no. 2) and Melanie Hunter
(no. 4) have been team leaders, really showing the way for
the younger players.
"It been a very memorable season thus far and we are
looking forward to next week," Vecchiolla says.
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