Reeling from last season’s losing records, the men’s and women’s tennis teams face uncertain futures as they approach the spring season with a new coach and revamped lineups. But the teams’ undaunted positivity, stemming from Head Coach Ghia Godfree’s rousing leadership, the captains’ motivation and the new players’ ambition, gives fans hope for a robust season.
The women’s team began this season with a disappointing opener, falling 9-0 against University of La Verne Feb. 6. Yet captain Lucy Malloch (senior) remains confident.
“As an individual, I was pretty psyched out last match, so I am going to be a bit more relaxed and just enjoy what I do best — playing tennis,” Malloch said via email.
The positivity, love and motivation Malloch receives and inspires in her team have encouraged her to play even in the hardest of times. In her sophomore year, a season-ending injury came just as her father suffered a stroke.
“We both started the recovery process together (very different recoveries), and his determination to get his coordination back and tennis abilities back was one of the more inspiring things I have witnessed,” Malloch said via email. “Now, we are both back to where we were, and we play tennis almost every day when I am home.”
Reflecting on her final season, Malloch is determined to make tennis a part of her life after college. She is interviewing for a mentorship program meant to help students on and off the tennis court.
“There definitely were times when I wasn’t happy here, but tennis was always the group of people I went to and was automatically happy again and remembered how much I love this school,” Malloch said via email.
Like Malloch, Andrea Clawson (first year) is unconcerned with the opening loss. As a team, she believes they will find their potency after experimenting with the lineup and doubles pairing. Personally, her goals are to improve her serving consistency and to be more aggressive at the net.
One of several promising first-year players, Clawson has a long history of strong performances. She began playing when she was only 7 years old, and was captain of her high school team during her junior and senior years. Looking ahead, she is impatient to beat Caltech, and imagines a long career both at Occidental and possibly afterward.
“The thing about tennis is that it’s a life-long sport; you can play it when you’re 80,” Clawson said.
Like the women’s team, the men’s team faces an arduous ascent. Losing their first game 9-0 against Pomona-Pitzer, they proceeded to fall to Linfield College 7-2. The team also lost six of their starting players after last season, leaving their new lineup in flux. Still, Cameron Coe (first year), one of three talented new players, is focused on the future.
“There’s a lot of things we can work on: general consistency on the team, everyone just needs to keep fighting through their matches, and I think on the doubles side we’re mixing up a few of the different combinations, trying to find the best chemistry between people,” Coe said.
Playing in multiple state championships throughout high school, Coe brings a combination of experience and skill. Though he finds the collegiate competition challenging and the training rigorous, he is focused on his goals: achieving a personal winning record and developing his strong speed and focus.
Coe is confident that he and Trevor Brown (junior) will be one of the team’s strongest double pairings. As a junior on an otherwise young team, Brown has emerged as a leader amidst the uncertainty.
“The way he’s handled everything and been a positive influence on the guys, I really look up [to him],” Coe said. “We’ve lost six of the seven starters from last year and he’s just really been a positive guy, knowing what Oxy tennis can be … definitely now when we’re kind of in a rebuilding process, [he] is keeping that positivity up and looking out for all the guys and stuff, and trying to help us get better.”
The teams’ confidence owes a lot to their new coach, Godfree. A strong multi-sport athlete, she led the Harvard softball team to two Ivy League championships as team captain. She came to Occidental last semester to lead both the men’s and women’s teams, bringing a lifetime of tennis experience and skill.
Godfree’s players have nothing but praise for her. Recognizing the effort it has taken to remake the team, Coe admires her hard work.
“It’s been hard for her to try to really have to rebuild this team, but I think she’s also been doing a really good job,” Coe said.
Similarly, Malloch appreciates Godfree’s push for the team to succeed.
“Ghia has been an incredibly grounding person to have on the courts,” Malloch said via email. “She has also really lit a fire under our butts. We need someone who can push us to be better and have ways to help us. She is incredibly inspirational, and always has us in her mind when making decisions. It means a lot to have someone as awesome as her as our new coach.”
Armed with a strong team of both leaders and new players, the women’s team won 6-3 against Hope International on Feb. 11. Though they yielded to Pomona-Pitzer 9-0 Feb. 14, the team remains is ready to take on Caltech on Feb. 20. Keilani Bonis-Ericksen (senior), another veteran, spoke enthusiastically about the team’s future.
“I feel that in the past four years I have been playing tennis at Oxy, I have never seen the team this tight-knit and motivated to improve,” Bonis-Ericksen said via email. “I think this is partly due to Ghia’s coaching abilities and positive outlook. We just beat Hope International, so it seems that we are off to a good start. We also have some great (first year) so it is nice to see some new talent in the lineup.”
For both teams, the leadership and positivity of everyone from the coach to the seniors and first-year players promise inspiring seasons.