By Jessica Geller, sports editor
Down six games in the final match of the 2015 United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis on Campus National Championship against the University of Miami, winning was at the hands of the Northeastern club tennis mixed doubles team.
Sophomore Isabella Mozdzierz-Monico and senior Adam Gerger won 6-2, but NU was still down two games in the overall team score. Since the pair won its match, sudden death ensued. Mozdzierz-Monico and Gerger continued to win games to close the gap and tie the overall number of games at 23. The Huskies played super tiebreaker, a special tie breaker for when the game score is tied after mixed doubles play, and walked away with a 15th-place win.
“This is the best that NU has ever done,” senior women’s club tennis President Casey Geddes said. “In previous years, we placed in the 30s, so we were really happy with our performance.”
Nationals were in North Carolina April 9-12. Ten Huskies competed with the mindset of wanting to win all three pool-play games to advance to the Gold Bracket, a feat the team had never pulled off, Geddes said.
The first opponent was the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). Facing adversity early on, Geddes’ vocal cord spasmed and she was taken to the hospital. She was released several hours later and had to sit out for the remainder of pool play. Geddes returned later in the tournament.
Junior Katie Gilligan jumped in mid-match against the UPenn Quakers and played the remainder of pool play. To beat the Quakers, the Huskies’ mixed doubles team played its first super tiebreak of the tournament. NU won 26-25.
The Huskies’ next competition was Indiana University, a team that NU beat 27-19.
“Everyone was on a roll from the morning [and] really excited,” Geddes said. “Everyone came in hitting well and we won pretty easily.”
Postponed from Thursday due to rain, NU faced the University of Central Florida early Friday morning. Geddes and her team knew they had to win the match in order to win their pool. Once again, going into the mixed doubles match, NU was down in the team score. The mixed doubles team won via a super tiebreak, rallying back three times to close out the match for the team win.
The Gold Bracket and the Huskies were in business. The team lost to the University of Georgia, dropping down to the bottom half of the bracket to play for ninth through 16th places.
“We went into the Gold Bracket with the mentality of ‘one game at a time,’” Geddes said. “After playing Georgia, we reset our minds in terms of having to bring our best to every single match. We were very excited after winning [pool play] and I think we let it take over a little bit.”
NU lost its next two matches to the California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and the University of California Irvine. The last and final opponent, Miami, was next.
“We reset our heads for the last match and said ‘let’s win our last one here at nationals,’” Geddes said. “Everyone was playing [for the seniors], playing for themselves and trying to get one last win in.”
NU beat Miami by a score of 24-23, once again relying on the mixed doubles team to come from behind and win game-after-game to take the lead.
In October, the Huskies earned an automatic bid to Nationals as the New England Sectional Champions. This also gave NU a spot in the Spring Invitational – known as Nationals B by NU and most colleges – which is in Tucson, Ariz. this weekend. This tournament gives the next-best players a chance to travel and have fun at a far-away tournament, as the travel team is usually just the top-five players, Jack Lebel, junior men’s club president, said.
“I’m really excited to be playing in this tournament as a senior [and] end on such a great note,” senior Mollye Lipton said. Lipton has played on the club tennis team four of her five years at Northeastern.
Club tennis is officially two teams of 27 women and 27 men. However, members attend, at minimum, one co-ed practice and one women’s- or men’s-only practice a week in Weymouth. Geddes and Lebel run the practices that focus on match play and skills training.
On the Tennis on Campus nationals webpage, each school has a short “meet the team” section. NU was asked “If a local newspaper was to write a story about your team, what is the one thing you’d want to make sure they included?” The News asked Geddes for the answer to the question.
“Midnight Madness is a charity tournament that Northeastern puts on,” Geddes said. “The tagline is ‘serving the community all night long.’ We play tennis all night long in a competitive and fun atmosphere to raise money for local nonprofits that are providing tennis lessons free of cost, or of very minimal cost, to individuals who financially would not be able to afford to learn the game of tennis.”
In its sixth year, 66 tennis players from New England participated two weeks ago, including 38 NU club tennis members. Midnight Madness is an integral part of club tennis because it brings the team together for something bigger, according to Geddes.
“By raising money to be able to support these programs, we can have these kids play,” Lebel said. “Hopefully one day they will be in college, playing club tennis, maybe Division I tennis, and make their national championship.”
Club tennis is a team sport – substitutions add more strategy to the game that doesn’t appear outside of club tennis. The USTA Tennis on Campus program allows players to sub into a match because the focus is on the team, not an individual player, according to the USTA website. As president, Geddes has worked to make the Huskies a team off the court so that they can be a team when they hit the ball.
“The game of tennis has taught us things beyond the court,” Geddes said. “We take what we learn on the court – discipline, determination, perseverance – and apply it to other areas of our life.”
Photo courtesy Katie Gilligan, Northeastern club tennis