The Occidental College Men’s Tennis Team played three matches against Wheaton College, Salisbury University and Principia University March 17–20 and beat both Wheaton (7–2) and Principia (7–2) while losing to Salisbury (6–5). The team’s record thus far this season (4–6) now matches the win total from the combined 2016–17 season, when they won four matches, and the 2015–16 winless season.
“She [Coach Manasse] really knows how to motivate us, which is one of the most important things,” Lucas Chmielewski (first year) said.
In addition to being the top singles player on the team, Chmielewski plays doubles with senior captain and 2017 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Arthur Ashe Award Winner Isa Kibira (senior). The pair won their set against Principia (8–6) and Wheaton (8–0).
“We have really good chemistry,” Chmielewski said. “I like to play from the baseline, and he likes to play from the net, so it works out really well.”
Team captain Cameron Coe (junior) swept his Wheaton opponent in the second doubles position at 6–3 for the first set and 6–2 in the second set. Additionally, he also beat Principia (7–2) in the third doubles position with partner Hunter Bojalad. Coe attributes the success of the team this year to a positive team dynamic and the hiring of Coach Manasse.
“My first year, we didn’t win a match all season, and then last year we had an entirely new team pretty much,” Coe said. “This year, we have matched our win total in the past two seasons thanks to our new coach.”
The team has won three of their last four matches. Coach Manasse has brought a new tenacity and levels of seriousness and organization, according to Coe.
“We are slowly learning what it takes to win and improving our mental toughness,” Manasse said in an Occidental Athletics Department article.
Ivan Derrick* (sophomore) swept in the second singles position (6–2, 6–2) in the match against Principia. According to the same Occidental Athletics Department article, Derrick spent last season in the lower half of the lineup but has put in a lot of work and moved significantly up the ladder. This improvement can be attributed to myriad skills that coach Manasse focuses on in practice, according to Chmielewski.
“His serve is so fast and his 6-foot-4 height gives him good trajectory,” Manasse said in the Occidental Athletics Department article. “His speed and control on the serve earns him free points and sets him up well in singles and doubles.”
The team is close-knit and spends time with each other both on and off the court, according to Coe. They are overall very upbeat and bring a lot of energy to each match, according to Manasse. Chmielewski said that this dynamic is unique among the teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) conference, which is one of the top tennis conferences in the nation.
“[The team dynamic] is really positive,” Chmielewski said. “Even if you’re down, we always have everyone cheering each other on.”
The greatest spring break win was against Wheaton, according to coach Manasse. Between impressive doubles performances and contagious positive energy on the courts, Manasse said that the win was amazing to witness.
“The dynamic is positive and team-centric. It’s all about making themselves and their teammates better daily. Looking to improve each day,” Manasse said via text message.
According to Coe, as the season progresses, spirits remain high, and playing in more matches will help overall team improvement. More specifically, the team strives to increase singles confidence in play and take a more aggressive, net-centered approach for doubles, according to Manasse. The team has ambitious goals, especially for their SCIAC championship tournament at the end of April.
“We’re hoping to get a couple wins in Conference play,” Coe said. “SCIACs is definitely, if not the hardest, the second hardest conference in the nation for tennis, so we’re hoping to see some improvements.”
The team will face off against Pacific Lutheran University from Tacoma, Washington March 29 at 5 p.m. at the Scholl Canyon Golf and Tennis Club in Glendale, California.
*Ivan Derrick is a staff writer for The Occidental