To say The Tribe tennis team is on a roll may be an understatement. In the past month and a half, the team has victories against Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia Tech – their latest opponent, Wake Forest. With those wins, The Tribe went from being unranked – to 25th in the country.
And the success of the team starts with lone senior – Anik Cepada. She leads the team in singles victories this year with 18.
What has been the key to success this year?
“The key is really one point at a time. It’s a focus, I have been really calm this year and I feel confident in my teammates – it’s not a pressure to win, it’s getting out there and doing my job and laying it all on the court.”
First year head coach Tyler Thomson says Anik is the reason the team is 11 and 2 – and on a 7 game winning streak.
“She is the heart and soul of the team, incredible, fiery competitor, incredibly mature, very good leader, and she is truly a sparkplug for us. She is a favorite for people to watch because she is so passionate when she plays.”
Coach has another weapon in his arsenal – the doubles team of Jeltje Loomans and Maria Belaya. The pair are 19 and 2 overall, including six wins against teams in the top 25. That’s no surprise, you see – the two are one of the nation’s best – they are ranked second nationally in the polls.
“Playing with Marsha is so much fun, she is so steady from the baseline. Number two is just a number, but it is a great feeling to have, it gives you confidence.”
“Marsha and Jeltza, they are clearly the best team in my years of coaching, we take it for granted they are going to win. Yeltza is the best net player in college and Marsha is great. They compliment each other.”
What is different this year than in years past?
“More discipline, practices have been tougher, there has been more accountability on the team, holding each other accountable.”
“We try to focus not on results. We have not had a conversation about our rankings, we are talking about the things that have gotten us here, the process how hard they work, their attitudes on the court, the commitment, their trust in one another. They have some values they determined as a team and that is what they judge themselves by, not by the rankings.”
“Every year is completely different, it varies from semester to semester. And this one just like all the others really is enjoyable, this one is distinct, obviously because we are very successful and that’s a lot of fun and I have not gotten to experience that level of success yet. I am happy that senior year, it is finally coming together, these ladies love the game they play.”
“It is a game that has a lot of things, you have to be quick, you have to be mentally strong, very tough and basically playing against yourself the whole time even though you are playing against your opponent. And people don’t realize that it’s just that whatever happens on the court you can control and you need different ways to make it work and Anik is a great example. She knows how to break down an opponent. It’s a fun sport, you can mess with other people’s heads.”
The team is looking to crack the top 20, but for now, will focus on what got them to this point – their commitment to each other.