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The GW Hatchet

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Fresh tennis leadership doubles down on strategic mental game as season heats up

Hatchet File Photo
Junior Stella Wiesemann, who finished last season with an impressive 9-1 record making the A-10 All-Conference First Team, said she looks to win as many matches as possible in hopes of sending the team to a national rank and topping the A-10.

After reaching the Atlantic 10 semifinals last season, new leadership in the tennis program aims to inch the Colonials closer to a conference title.

The Colonials (1-1-2) got off to a slow start this season last month but hope their resounding 6-1 victory over Bucknell Friday will be a sign of things to come through the rest of the regular spring season. Head Coach George Rodriguez took the helm of the program in September in place of predecessor Torrie Browning, who exited her post last spring, and he now looks to make the GW team a more aggressive force on the court while establishing healthy and strategic mindsets for the players on and off the court.

“I think the goal is to keep developing as a person and as a player to see those results at the end of the year, to look back and be able to say ‘Look where we started, look where we ended up at as a player development side of it,’” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez spent the last two seasons as the head coach of the women’s and men’s tennis teams at Fresno Pacific, where he led the women’s team to a 16-10 championship win in the 2021-22 season, the best regular season record in program history. Rodriguez said he’s worked with players to extend their game to both doubles and singles to enhance the team’s depth while refining their top spin and cross shots on the court.

In the Friday match against Bucknell, GW picked up the full 3 points in doubles and notched five singles wins, keeping Bison in the middle of the court while blasting hits and volleys by them near the baselines. GW currently holds a .235 winning percentage for singles and a .222 winning percentage in doubles, dipping below last year’s .371 doubles and .442 singles winning percentage.

“We need to keep developing ourselves into a multidimensional player, not just a one-dimension style of game,” Rodriguez said. “We need to find different ways of winning matches, and when something’s not working, find an alternate way of finding a way to win, finding a different style that does work.”

Rodriguez said the mental game behind the sport has been a major focus with his new team of players, pushing them to tap into their competitive drive with every serve instead of dwelling on mistakes.

“We need to keep working on ourselves, the mental part of it as much as our physical part of it and just seeing that we’re there with these teams, even when you know on paper they can be better than us, but competing hard and making it competitive, giving us a chance to win and making it close,” Rodriguez said.

Junior Charlotte Bell, who posted a 2-9 mark in doubles last season, said the win against Bucknell adds confidence for the rest of the season. She said one of GW’s major adjustments has been in the doubles category, where the Colonials have become more aggressive with cross-court balls and wider angles to keep their opponents confined to the middle of the court.

“Yeah, so I definitely have a different approach to doubles especially in the past like now that I’m becoming a more aggressive singles player, it’s getting more similar, but in doubles, you have to be aggressive,” Bell said. “You have to coach, you have to move with a net. You have to keep the ball really cross court and really wide and hit better angles.”

Bell said the team has been using an app called Peak Brain Training, which the players can use to see different visualizations and reflections to boost their cognitive skills when strategizing before the match.

“Being uncomfortable is a big takeaway so far this semester, and I’m normally a player that hangs on the baseline,” Bell said. “So I stay back behind the baseline, and currently now I’m making myself uncomfortable by trying to move in and take balls on the rise more, moving into the court and being more aggressive.”

Junior Stella Wiesemann, who finished last season with an impressive 9-1 record while making the A-10 All-Conference First Team, said she looks to do her part picking up wins and pushing the team toward a national rank and A-10 Championship victory.

Wiesemann said music helps her visualize what she wants to execute in the match, from slamming topspin balls or finishing shots. She said this season she plans to keep three areas of improvement in mind during all 18 matches to stay focused in high-stake moments.

“I think just staying focused like sometimes for wins it’s easy to not really take away anything because when you lose, you know what you have to work on,” Wiesemann said. “But definitely just knowing what we have to keep working on in practice and in matches and definitely going into the next matches with more confidence.”

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