Tennis off-season proves well worth it
At 6:30 in the morning, while many other students at Quinnipiac University were still enjoying their sleep, the men’s and women’s tennis teams were already pouring sweat, feeling their muscles ache and dying for water. They were preparing for what is quite possibly their most promising tennis season in Quinnipiac University’s history.
With the season underway, both teams know that they have a lot of work to do to reach their goal of the NEC Championships.
Both teams have started off the season with a winning record, the men’s team which a 9-2 record, and the women’s team with a 6-2. A lot of their early success is credited to their strenuous off season.
“We worked our butts off in the off-season and we are more focused and committed because of it,” senior women’s tennis player Danielle Rautenberg said.
Both teams worked with a personal trainer at least three times a week. Mostly lifting weights and doing cardio exercises, they were continuously encouraged to make their skill levels and athleticism improve.
The head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, Mike Quitko, said that he can only do so much to inspire his players.
“We know where we want to be at the end of the year [NEC Championships],” Quitko said. “I know that, they know that. I can teach and motivate them all I want, but it is when each of them are able to encourage each other to get better that we will be the best we can be.”
Danielle Rautenberg and Kim Piazza, co-captains of the women’s team, play large roles in motivating their teammates. Setting an example, both leaders tallied their one hundredth career wins this season.
“We have all around good leadership on this team,” Rautenberg said. “We help each other to stay focused and to keep working hard.”
The men’s and women’s team, which have both been recently picked to finish first in the NEC by their respective pre-season polls, hope that their hard work from the off-season gets rewarded.
Jonathan Russo, a sophomore who finished last season with a 5-2 mark against NEC opponents, is excited about the outlook of the season. “Physically, we have definitely improved and with some new talented guys coming in this year, we definitely see ourselves in the [NEC] championship,” Russo said.
With the men’s teams starting six consisting of four freshmen, Quitko was quick to add, “The men have a great freshman class this year. I think they add to the team perfectly.”
One of these freshmen, Stefano Salvatore said, “We know that people have high expectations of us but we don’t let it go to our heads. We know people are gunning for us and we just want to win like anyone else.”
Refusing to give into the pressure, both teams want to make this a winning season and are willing to learn from their coach, owner of seven Coach of the Year titles and one National Coach of the Year honor.
“It’s easy to want to get better when the guys’ and girls’ team love our coach. He knows how to push us harder and harder to help us reach our goal of the championship,” Russo said, who believes that credit should be given to Quitko for an impressive start to the season.
Both men’s and women’s teams are committed to reaching their goal of the NEC Championships which will be held at Mercer County Tennis Center in West Windsor, N.J. on April 23 and 24.
Quitko has seen the drive that his athletes have shown and believes they will succeed. “These kids will earn their goal. The only thing in the way is themselves,” Quitko said. “And personally, I do not see that as a problem.”