Andei Fukushige and Sarah Fleming
Occidental’s women’s tennis team opened their season strong with a 7-2 victory over Lewis & Clark College (Oregon). Andei Fukushige (senior) and Sarah Fleming (senior) started with an early lead with an 8-0 victory in the first doubles match. In the singles portion of the competition, Fukushige and Fleming showed their individual prowess — Fukushige collected a pair of 6-0 wins and Fleming clinched the win for the college by winning with scores of 6-2 and 6-1 respectively.
Coach Stephen Perkins, who is the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, said Fukushige and Fleming are looked at as leaders.
“Andei and Sarah are both co-captains,” Perkins said. “So, I think in a lot of ways they set the tone for the team, teammates look up to them and they definitely lead through example.”
According to Fukushige, her doubles partner does a great job of caring for her teammates and trying to uplift the morale of the team.
“Sarah is really good at reading the environment, like noticing if I’m not playing well or another teammate’s not playing well, just bringing that energy to practice — a very positive energy,” Fukushige said. “It’s really hard to be negative around her.”
Fleming said that having her dad as a coach gave her a better sense of how to approach leadership.
“I feel like I have always been more of a natural leader, so I don’t mind speaking up and talking to people,” Fleming said. “But it is hard and there was a learning curve, but now I am pretty comfortable saying things before a match or asking people how they are playing and helping them.”
Fleming praised Fukushige’s heart and bravery on the court and said that she is a great leader by example.
“Everyone on the team just looks up to her, she always pushes herself and wants to be challenged,” Fleming said. “I think everyone strives to be how good she is at tennis. I don’t think she takes no for an answer, in the best way possible.”
According to Perkins, not only are Fukushige and Fleming great captains and leaders on the team, but they are also a talented duo looking to accomplish even more in their final year playing collegiate tennis.
“They genuinely look like they have a lot of fun playing together. When they play together, they’re able to kind of relieve the pressure on one another and really support each other,” Perkins said. “I think the sky’s the limit for them this year. They’re very talented and playing really well together as a duo, so I think they can accomplish really big things.”
Ace Andres and Ronald Chen
Like the women’s team, Occidental’s men’s tennis team started off the season with a resounding win, defeating Lewis & Clark College 9-0. Doubles partners Ronald Chen (first year) and Ace Andres (first year) defeated their opponents by a score of 8-4, the largest of the doubles victories by the three men’s duos. The first years also shined in their individual matchups, with Chen picking up 6-3 and 6-2 wins, and Andres collecting 6-4 and 6-0 wins.
Andres said that picking up a win in the first matchup of the season builds momentum and shows him and his teammates that they are making progress on their season-long goals.
“I think it sets the tone of the goals that we have been honing in practice, and having that initial confidence is big, especially as we move later on in the season and into SCIACs,” Andres said.
According to Chen, he has grown more comfortable during his first year with the team and enjoys being able to contribute.
“I think coming in I was a bit nervous as a freshman in a new environment,” Chen said. “But the team has definitely been helpful and welcoming which has helped me feel a lot more comfortable,” Chen said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a leader but it’s definitely nice to be playing at a position that is valuable in contributing to the team.”
Perkins said that it is important for doubles partners to mesh well as friends and have play styles that complement each other. Chen agreed, and said having a partner that he can rely on during the competition is essential.
“[It’s important to] understand your partner’s play style and have a good idea of their next move,” Chen said. “It differs because you’re not on your own and I can rely on my partner if I’m not playing the best.”
Chen said he and Andres mesh well both on and off the tennis court.
“He’s such a funny guy, he always makes me laugh,” Chen said. “We work together because I feel like we both understand the game in a similar perspective so it is easier to know his next move or where I should be covering.”
Andres said that the team environment promotes healthy competition in getting the players to improve their own games as well as the games of their teammates. Perkins, who played tennis at Occidental from 2010-2013, said that one of his main goals is to help his players build strong relationships with their teammates that last beyond their years at Occidental.
“You build relationships with your team that are really strong and learn that you’re playing for something bigger than just yourself,” Perkins said. “So, I think being a good teammate is really important and something that, hopefully, Oxy student-athletes take with them into their lives.”
Contact Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org
3/2/2023: This story was updated at 10:55 am to insert a corrected photograph of Andei Fukushige