Defending champions return after year without tournaments

Quintin Coulaud celebrates with Charles Bertimon against Virginia Tech at the Thalhimer Tennis Center on April 7. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Kaitlyn Fulmore, Contributing Writer

Men’s and women’s tennis are no strangers to Atlantic 10 tennis titles, combining for 10 championships since joining the conference in 2013. 

Both teams hope to continue their winning streak in the upcoming A-10 tournament, held in Orlando, Florida, from April 28 through May 2.

“We’re going there with confidence,” men’s tennis coach Anthony Rossi said. “We’re looking at it as another opportunity to bring a trophy back to Richmond.” 

The men’s tennis team has won three consecutive titles in the A-10 tournament 2017, 2018 and 2019. There wasn’t a tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team plans on continuing the winning streak.

“The whole team is excited,” said senior Inigo Torre Martin. “Especially because our team is still young and most of the players haven’t been in Orlando yet.” 

Players to look out for in the upcoming tournament include sophomore Lleyton Cronje, who holds a 10-3 record this season, along with doubles pair Torre Martin and junior Rayane Stable with a 10-2 record.

The women’s team has raised a conference championship trophy 10 times six A-10 wins and four wins from the Colonial Athletic Association, VCU’s athletic conference prior to 2013. Since joining the A-10 conference in 2013, the women’s tennis team has held the A-10 champion title every year, except 2017, when they placed runner-up.

First-year women’s tennis head coach Vivian Segnini said she wants to continue the legacy of her predecessor, former head coach Paul Kostin.

“He was successful and he worked so hard for this team,” Segnini said. “Obviously I would like to continue what he was doing.”

While the team has the pressure of previous year wins on their shoulders, senior Paola Expósito Díaz-Delgado says they are prepared.

“I think we’re prepared for the conference because we have been doing well in practices,” Díaz-Delgado said. “We know what we have to do. Every time we come to practice, there is a plan.”

Díaz-Delgado is a key player for the upcoming tournament, along with graduate student Noumea Witmus. The partners currently rank 83 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association doubles rankings.

The women’s tournament lasts from April 28 to May 1, and the men’s tournament goes from April 29 to May 2, both being held at the United States Tennis Association National Campus.

The women’s team ended the season with a 11-9 record and a 4-0 record in conference matches. The team played against nationally ranked schools, including No. 11 Duke, No. 14 UVA and No. 37 ODU.

“As a team we had a tough schedule and we learned a lot from the matches,” Segnini said. “We got a lot of experience.”

The men’s team ended the season with a 14-4 record and a 3-0 record in conference matches. However, the team is not resting up for the upcoming tournaments.

“It’s time to keep pushing, we’re not going to relax,” Torre Martin said. “We need to go all out till the end of the season.”

After making it a goal to be in the top 40 for collegiate tennis, the men’s tennis team was able to rank at No. 36 during the week of April 7. The men’s tennis team currently ranks No. 40 in the country, according to the ITA.

“If you look at where we stood a few years ago to where we are now, I think you can see we’re going in the right direction,” Rossi said.

Both teams emphasized the importance of the A-10 title for the road to the NCAA tournament. Winning the conference tournament guarantees a spot to play in nationals, regardless how a team is nationally ranked.

With the 2021 season record, along with past tournament history, the men’s and women’s tennis enter the A-10 tournament with confidence.

“We’re a team that doesn’t like to talk a lot,” Torre Martin said. “We like to go there and let the racket do the talking.”

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