The Rock tennis team returned to campus along with the rest of the students, and unknown to most of the campus, they returned fully vaccinated. They were the first team on the entire campus to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19. The feat is even more impressive considering the team consists of almost entirely international players.
Like the other sports, tennis was able to return to action in the spring and there were a variety of protocols. From having to social distance to wearing masks to getting tested weekly. All protocols had to be followed to make it safe for teams to return to play.
“We came in vaccinated, and we were the first team to be fully vaccinated on campus and god bless lacrosse, I love them but we were the first team vaccinated,” Coach Matt Meredith said. “We find it to be a sportsmanship thing, because we want to be healthy enough that we can do our sport and also know that we won’t be a problem for another team.”
Meredith did joke that while they didn’t need any incentives to get vaccinated, his team wouldn’t mind taking some sweatshirts. But in general, he’s just proud of his team for being vaccinated at all.
While the fall is not the tennis team’s official season, it is extremely important in building chemistry. Especially with the amount of players that haven’t played together for very long.
The longest tenured player on the team is now Lois Page, who is a junior. She is the only player who was here during 2019, when COVID-19 hit. Now, fast forward and she’s a captain. She lives with some of the players, and when she was asked her favorite part about it jokingly said, “Well they make some pretty Spanish food.”
Page has earned a ton of accolades here at The Rock. She’s been named All-PSAC West four times now. In 2019, her and Viola Lugmayr won both the ITA Atlantic Region Doubles and the PSAC doubles. That same year she was named an ITA All-American.
“She’s been everything I thought she would be when I brought her in, she’s become a very capable leader and been dominate on the court as well,” Meredith said. “She is one of the top players in our region, and she has come over injuries this year, and she has come out on top.”
Now she’s without Lugmayr, but she’s still arguably one of the best doubles players in the PSAC. For the second time, she’s paired with Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez. The duo took the court together for the first time in the Spring, and they dominated. They put up a record of 9-3.
“I will say that team will be intact, and I’m already excited that they’re together,” Meredith said. “I expect them to be one of the top teams in the region.”
Gonzalez Sanchez was named PSAC West Athlete of the Year for the 2020-2021. On the court she was unstoppable last year. She went undefeated in PSAC action and at one point had a win streak of 11 matches. She has been a force and the pairing of her and Page makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the PSAC. Matter of fact, they spent most of last season ranked in the ITA doubles poll.
Gonzalez Sanchez is one of three players from Spain on the tennis team. Ironically, all three transferred here. Gonzalez Sanchez came from Saint Louis University, while Gabriela Del Val Del Toro came from Coker University and Nuria Martin Lopez came from Nicholls State University.
The team is almost all new. No one except for Page has gone through a normal fall season before. That gives not only Meredith, but also Page a lot to help everyone work on. The fall is important to get incoming players acclimated to playing at Slippery Rock, and also gives everyone the opportunity to have some competition during the offseason. This year, it’s also about getting back to normal and staying safe.
“We had three new kids come in, two freshman who have done extremely well and hopefully we won’t be calling them freshman in the spring, we’ll hopefully be calling them super freshman,” Meredith said. “They’re learning to be on the court and play college tennis and it’s going really well.”
Those two freshmen are Georgie Lancaster and Teddi Isherwood. Lancaster is from Bromley, England, while Isherwood is from down the road. Both are experiencing college play for the first time.
Isherwood is the only player that is not international and she also new to the team. The team consists of two players from England and three from Spain.
“It’s been different in a good way, we’re probably learning more Spanish than anyone on campus,” Meredith said jokingly. “I have more internationals players this year than I ever have, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
The fall season has already concluded and there were five competitions that were held. Page was the runner-up in the ITA Atlantic Regional tournament. She was able to add that to her already impressive resume. She now sits at 98 wins, and Meredith can’t wait to see her get to 100.
“That’s the whole goal when you bring kids in here, not just to have 100 wins but to develop into not just a great tennis player, but a great student athlete,” Meredith said. “And she is all of those things.”
Overall, just being back out on the court has been awesome for the team. Being back has made all the difference in helping the girls get used to being here.
“I can’t even tell you how much we enjoy being back out there, and what a difference it makes,” Meredith said. “There is no comparison to last year, because last year felt like being in jail.”