Miami tennis’ competitive spirit and positivity led the team to a 5-2 win last Friday against Eastern Michigan and a 4-1 conference record just past the halfway mark of Mid-American Conference play.
“It’s been a development year, putting everything together,” head coach Ricardo Rosas said. “But, I’m happy with where we’re at right now in the MAC and how the team has been working together and getting along.”
The RedHawks (8-8, 4-1) welcomed six freshmen at the start of the season and welcomed back two seniors and a junior to chase a MAC tournament championship.
Rosas leads the young team in his first season as head coach, after being the RedHawks’ assistant coach for 15 years and associate for the past five. The young Breaunna Addison became Rosas’ assistant after a prolific career with the Texas Longhorns.
“Our team is totally new,” senior captain Nelli Ponomareva said. “So, it’s kind of tough because you have to teach [freshmen] stuff, especially because it’s the first time they’ve ever played college tennis, but I think they’re doing great.”
And, Miami tennis is doing great. The ’Hawks have compiled an 8-8 overall record, after facing numerous challenging, non-conference opponents. The team’s competitive spirit and will to win, which Rosas has acknowledged is something he can’t teach, has allowed the team to overcome the adversity it faced earlier this spring.
“Sometimes it can get difficult if you start seeing numbers and records, but I do know that even if we take a few tough losses, my players are getting better because we’re playing better teams,” Rosas said. “It’ll definitely help us going through the conference.”
Since MAC play began, the RedHawks have been tearing through the conference – going 4-1 with the team’s only loss coming to the reigning MAC champions in the Buffalo Bulls. The RedHawks only need one more conference win this season to match their 5-3 MAC record from last year.
To win a MAC tournament championship, however, the ’Hawks will need to find a way to beat Buffalo, the team they’ll likely face again in the championship match at the end of April.
“I think in my experience at Miami and being part of many championships, one of the things I’m always big on, and what I talk to them about is – individuals win matches, but teams win championships,” Rosas said.
Just like Rosas, Miami tennis is no stranger to winning championships. The RedHawks have recorded 22 conference championships and boast a 233-39 all-time MAC record, backed by a 615-352 all-time overall record. The program has made five NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2015.
Amidst this year’s youth, Ponomareva captains her team to work hard on and off the court. She sites her team’s friendship, Rosas’ attitude and the coaching staff’s intensity as the reason for the team’s potential for success in the post-season.
Ponomareva and Rosas agree it will ultimately be attitude and mindset, not the team’s obvious talent, that will lead to a strong finish in its three remaining MAC matches and will lead to competitive play into the tournament.
“At times, I just need to remind them that they’re a good team and good players and once they understand and believe that, they can just go out there and compete,” Rosas said. “I will say, they do want to win.”
The RedHawks next play on Saturday in Oxford, weather permitting, as they take on Bowling Green at 1 p.m.