For the most part, tennis is an individual sport, one that requires an incredible amount of mental and physical fortitude both on and off the court. For Boston University’s women’s tennis team, it is the special bond between players, coaches and staff that helps them overcome these barriers to win games, sets and matches.
The Terriers are aiming to capture another Patriot League Championship next semester, but under starkly different circumstances since their last trophy run. For many on the team, this will be their first full year of collegiate matches after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is a tough road ahead that involves carefully balancing practice, tournaments and academic studies. But for team captains Emily Kim and Erica Di Battista, no obstacle is insurmountable as long as each player does one thing — plays as a team.
“We really are there to work hard but also have fun with each other,” Kim said. “The personal relationships that you have with your teammates and your coaches make up so much more of the experience. It’s really had such a positive impact on my time at BU.”
A graduate student at the School of Public Health, Kim decided to continue her journey with the women’s tennis team and adopt a more supportive role for younger players.
“Overall, I just want to support the other girls on the team and make sure they have a really positive experience this year, especially since it is our first full season since COVID-19 hit,” she said.
With Fall duties well underway, the Terriers have their eyes set on the Spring season, where the bulk of their competitive matches will be played in the Patriot League.
The bond the women’s team has formed throughout the years has strengthened, particularly during the pandemic. The relationship has paid dividends on the court, with the Terriers winning the Patriot League for the first time in four years in 2021.
“We really dedicated a lot of time to those relationships and realized how lucky we were to have each other,” Di Battista said.
This synergy has carried through to the Fall schedule, with the Terriers competing against Dartmouth and Harvard, at the ITA Regionals and Super Regionals, and at the Brown Classic. In the latter, the Terriers went for a combined 12-6 singles mark and a 4-4 doubles record.
“When we all go out on court, we all have the common goal of working together because we want to win as a team,” Kim said. “We do a really good job of putting the team’s interest first.”
For a sport that largely relies on individual effort, teamwork plays an important role in the Terriers’ success. With the Spring season around the corner, the team is currently focusing on strengthening those relationships rather than just getting results.
“In order for them to do well, they need the support of their team and their teammates throughout the season,” head coach Lesley Sheehan said. “The Fall season is trying to establish that and bring that together so we’re ready for the Spring.”
The team has already started to find its groove, Di Battista said.
“Our chemistry really shines through when we’re playing matches,” Di Battista said. “That dynamic … is really what brings out the team energy that we work on during practice, and I think that’s a huge part of what makes it such a great experience.”
The Terriers’ tennis team has undergone many changes over the past year, with the loss of some seniors and the addition of some freshmen. But for the most part, it has stayed the same, including the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year, sophomore Kaitlin Tan. However, so has the potential for physical and mental burnouts, especially amongst the less experienced players, as the season unfolds.
“It’s easy to get burnt out, physically and mentally, because you’re literally competing every single weekend with almost no days off for an entire semester,” Kim said. “I’ve seen the toll it could have on me … so I want to make sure that everyone else has a positive experience”
For Kim, this year marks her last season with the Terrier women’s tennis team. For Di Battista, a junior in Sargent College, this will be her first-ever full season before heading into her senior year.
“I’m also going to be trying to figure out how to not burn out, and not get too tired from all the tennis, and manage my time well,” Di Battista said. “I want the team to enjoy themselves. I want to have a great experience every time we go on court and make the matches something that we can enjoy on the weekends.”
The Terriers will conclude their Fall duties at the Harvard Invitational from Nov. 5-7.