Athletics seeks tennis courts after NEWMAC change

by Matt Couture / Beacon Staff • February 15, 2017

A NEWMAC conference change that will move women’s tennis to the spring season in 2018 is bringing new urgency to the athletic department’s search for home courts for its men’s and women’s programs.

Athletic director Patricia Nicol said she is looking for a permanent home for the tennis program, but that the quest has been a real challenge.

The women’s tennis team currently plays its entire regular season and conference tournament in the fall, and then returns in the spring for additional exhibition games and the NCAA tournament, if it qualifies. The full slate of women’s tennis matches will be played exclusively in the spring starting next year. Men’s tennis also plays all of its matches in the spring.

Emerson sophomore Rachel Scalera said she expects the switch to be to the Lions’ advantage.

“It makes more sense for our development as a team,” said Scalera, a visual and media arts major. “We get to have the whole fall to practice, and then hopefully we’ll get to go on our spring trip somewhere and play a lot of matches, and then be in really great shape for the more intense conference season and do a little better.”

The women’s tennis team finished 4-8 overall this fall, but 0-8 in NEWMAC matches.

Other spring programs, including baseball, softball, and women’s lacrosse, already take annual trips to train for the season during spring break.

Nicol said it has been difficult to locate potential home courts because any selection must comply with certain conference standards. She said the NEWMAC requires all courts to be outdoors. 

Scalera said the women’s team played some home matches at Winchester Country Club, an indoor facility in Arlington, Massachusetts, in the fall. The club is about a 25-minute drive from Emerson’s location on Boylston Street.

But because scheduled home matches were sometimes played at an opponent’s court, Scalera said drives could take over an hour to play “home” matches, significantly diluting any home field advantage.

In the fall, Emerson played 15 matches, 10 of which were on the road. Of its five home matches, two were played at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Smith, with the Lions functioning as the “home” team in name only. Emerson dropped both conference matchups—9-0 to MIT and 7-2 against Smith.

Scalera said the acquisition of a single home for Emerson tennis could boost morale and allow for more frequent practices. 

“Having an actual facility, actual permanent courts, would make us feel more a part of Emerson—just as important as other teams that get their home facilities,” Scalera said. 

Scalera’s teammate, Sabrina Jacobs, said she would also expect a boost in attendance, even if slight, if there was a set venue for Lions tennis.

“If there’s always a single place that people have to come to see our matches, I think that will be in our advantage, because then we’ll get more support from the community,” said Jacobs, a freshman visual and media arts major.

Emerson baseball was the most recent program to find a permanent home. The team started playing at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, Massachusetts in 2016. The baseball team also struggled for location consistency in previous years, and like tennis, played some home games at opponent ballparks.

Emerson’s men’s tennis team will start its 2017 season early on Saturday at Southern New Hampshire University before resuming play on Mar. 20 at Wheelock College.