The Occidental men’s and women’s tennis teams will each be saying goodbye to two seniors this year. For the men’s team, these seniors are Eric Kazangian and Josh Dancu. The women’s team is graduating Sara Charney and Amber Gadsden. On and off the court, these four students have served up their best for Occidental.
Kazangian is a biochemistry major from Glendale, Calif. He began his Occidental career as a two-sport athlete, playing tennis and football. Kazangian did not finish his first year tennis season, but in his sophomore year, he quit football to focus on tennis.
“I really didn’t like football practices, and the logical decision to make would be to stick with tennis,” Kazangian said. “It’s a lot more laid back, I like the closeness of the team and that we’re small, and I felt like I had more potential in tennis.”
Since this choice, Kazangian has been able to develop his tennis ability. This year, he experienced a six-match streak of singles wins.
“I’ve been playing pretty well ever since then,” Kazangian said. “I learned a lot during that time, I knew after that that if you trust in the process and you come and you work every day, there is nothing bad that could come out of it.”
Next year, Kazangian thinks he will miss the team atmosphere the most.
“We fight really hard, and I’m going to miss that mentality of being on the team,” he said.
Dancu, a Art History and Visual Arts major, transferred to Occidental from DePaul University during his sophomore year and has been the No. 1 singles player on the tennis team since. Dancu is currently ranked No. 10 in the West Region Pool released in March. This season, he has won 12 three-set matches and more tie breakers than ever before in his career.
“Knowing that I can come out and compete, and that I can stick it to them and not let my mind falter, I think I can get the ‘w’ almost every time,” Dancu said. “Our team has that mentality of being a tiger at heart, and I grind my face off.”
Dancu values the mentality and dynamic of the tennis team, and that he thrives off the player-oriented nature of the team.
“We are the ones who hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard,” Dancu said.
Dancu believes that one of his biggest areas of growth on the tennis team has been his leadership skills, as the team has many underclassmen. The position of captain allowed him to set a standard and taught him how to keep morale high.
“Tennis is a very discouraging sport—keep your head up, keep pushing forward, and keep grinding. Knowing that every day is a new leaf and keep turning the leaf over,” Dancu said.
Off the court, Dancu is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and enjoys playing both surf and indie rock music.
“They are revered by all of their teammates,” assistant coach Jordan Brown said. “We will miss Eric’s stability and leadership. He played a crucial role anchoring the No. 2 singles spot. Josh has had an incredible senior season. He will go down as one of the greatest tennis players to have ever played at Oxy. We will miss not only his immense talent, but commitment to developing and mentoring some of our younger players.”
For the women’s team, Charney, a Pasadena native, has played on the tennis team for three of her years at Occidental. In addition to playing tennis, Charney is on the Hillel executive board and sings for the Accidentals and Glee. Club Charney is a cognitive science major with linguistics and music double minor.
“I think to have an available athletic outlet is really great,” Charney said.
According to Charney, one of the most important skills she has learned from tennis is mental strength.
“In general, I’ve liked playing the tough players,” Charney said, “just being able to feel like I’m playing my best against them. Being able to rise to the occasion.
“My highlights would be any time that I came back, that I showed courage.”
Gadsden has been on the tennis team all four years at Occidental. In her opinion, the best match she has ever played occurred this season. Though she didn’t win the match, Gadsden felt victorious from being able play an exceedingly difficult mental game.
Gadsden highly values the relationships she has made with head coach Will Morris and her teammates. Morris, in his first year as the women’s tennis coach, will always remember both Charney and Gadsden as the first graduates under his tennis tenure.
“We will miss their experience, energy and enthusiasm. They are both true student-athletes who have utilized all the benefits which an elite liberal arts institution like Oxy affords them,” Morris said.
Gadsden is an East Asian Studies major and hopes to teach English in Japan upon graduation. Gadsden believes through tennis, she has gained qualities like time management and prioritizing that will help her after graduation.
Each senior said that what they will miss most is the camaraderie on their teams, proving that with tennis, love isn’t just in the scoring.