Both of Pomona-Pitzer’s tennis teams have undergone significant changes since last season, and as their first big matches approach, the men’s and women’s team have set big goals and see clear paths to achieving them.
Almost almost all the women from last year’s elite team that reached the NCAA quarterfinals are returning to the court. However, though the team is familiar, the returning Sagehen women have a new coach at the helm.
Former Middlebury College coach Mike Morgan succeeds Ann Lebedeff, who retired this offseason after 19 years coaching the Hens.
One of Morgan’s main goals has been to strengthen team unity by preparing more off the court.
“From the beginning, Mike has really put an emphasis on us getting stronger physically and tougher mentally,” Emily Chen PO ’18 said. “We’ve spent a lot of time lifting to help us get stronger and avoid injuries. We’ve also done a lot of visualization work to help us build our confidence and mentally prepare for matches.”
In addition, the women have a weekly practice dedicated entirely to team-building.
“In order to build a strong team, each player must help all of their teammates cross the finish line,” assistant coach Jamie Solomon said. “Our mission is to produce good people, not just good tennis players.”
The women’s ultimate goal for the season is lofty: win the national championship.
“Last season proved that this team is amongst the elite in the country,” Solomon said. “We are strong enough to beat the best and win a national championship.”
The men’s team graduated five seniors last years, but features eight new players, including top recruit Jed Kronenberg PO ’21. They will have to lean heavily on these new players in order to enjoy a successful season.
“We’ve got six new first-years and two transfers, and all of them have been easy to get along with and have been quick to become an important part of the team,” senior Kalyan Chadalavada PO ’18 said.
Head coach Steve Bickham’s team made the conference semifinals last year, and Bickham is optimistic about the future.
“The team is working harder than ever and I am happy with the progress,” he said. “While most think this will be a building year for us, we are confident that we can continue the successes of the past few years.”
The objective for the men’s team is close to home — just across Sixth Street.
“CMS has gone undefeated in the SCIAC many years in a row, so a big goal I have for our [P-P] team is beating CMS,” Kronenberg said.
The men will follow last weekend’s alumni match with home matches this Saturday against Irvine Valley College and Occidental College. The women’s first match is Feb. 23. They will face off against Hope International University and Bates College at home.