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Women's Tennis Team Has Season of Growth; Competes at Nationals


West Windsor, N.J. – Any time Marc Vecchiolla, head tennis coach for women’s tennis at Mercer County Community College, has a chance to take his team to the NJCAA national tournament, he considers the season to have been a very good one.  That means many good seasons for the MCCC Vikings, with thirteen national appearances and four national titles since Vecchiolla began coaching at MCCC in 1997.

This fall, the team finished the regular season with a 5-4 record and a third place finish in the Region 19 tournament. The Vikings totaled enough points to qualify for the NJCAA Tournament, held at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY from Oct. 24-26. They ended the tournament 7th out of 13 teams.

While Vecchiolla enjoyed having four returning sophomores, he notes that the team lost some of its more experienced players, including Alison Noll, the best player in the program’s history, who won the national title at no. 1 singles in both of her years playing for MCCC. (Noll served as team manager this season.)

At nationals, from left to right: Nataly Hernandez, Alina Vitukhnovskaya, Kristen Finn, Salomey Owusu, Desiree Villavizar, Kelly Tanzone, Eva Szyszko, and head coach Marc Vecchiolla.

Still, Vecchiolla is more than satisfied with the Vikings’ efforts. “They learned quite a bit and they had fun. They were happy, healthy and well-behaved on the court.  They exhibited exceptional sportsmanship,” he said.

Highlights at nationals included Kelly Tanzone reaching the final at no. 5 singles and being named an NJCAA All-American.  Alina Vitukhnovskaya won the third singles consolation tournament. She and doubles partner Kristen Finn won the second doubles consolation tournament. 

According to Vecchiolla, the most memorable match for a Vikings player came early in the tournament. In the first round at no. 2 singles, freshman Salomey Owusu faced an opponent from Broome CC (NY) she had lost to earlier in the season. Owusu came back again and again at the match point and ultimately won after 3-1/2 hours of gritty tennis.

Others on the 2012 roster included Eva Szyszko at no. 1 singles, Nataly Hernandez at no. 6 singles, and Desiree Villavizar at no. 3 doubles. Practicing with the team was Micheldy Pierre.

Vecchiolla can reflect with pride that four of his eight players – Owusu, Hernandez, Villavizar and Pierre – are expected to return next season.  “That says a lot about their experience with this team.  We look for the girls to have fun and make progress,” he said.

His philosophy speaks to his larger goal for his players.  “It’s truly not about winning or losing at the tournament," Vecchiolla observes. He notes the real measure of a coach's success is whether his players continue to enjoy the sport into adulthood. "Tennis is the sport of a lifetime,” he maintains.

Vecchiolla was assisted by Barb Pleva and Ralph Bencivengo.

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