By Amanda Lappa
The College’s women’s tennis team won every conference match they played in the 30-year history of the sport’s inclusion in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, yet head coach Scott Dicheck admits that he gets worried at the beginning of most matches.
Dicheck, who has presided over the team since 2000, now has 13 NJAC Championships with the Lions and coached the team to 66 consecutive conference victories. The Lions dominance has stretched over 148 undefeated conference matches and 30 straight conference titles.
Despite his nerves at the beginning of matches, the quick starts his doubles teams have given the Lions on their way to dominant victories often calmed him.
“We have been very successful with the doubles and getting off to quick leads,” Dicheck said.
Nerves still exist though, especially for some players, simply for the mounting pressure to not be the team that ends the incredible run.
“There’s a lot of pressure every time we step on the court to continue our 148-match conference win streak,” senior quad-captain Paige Aiello said. “Although it’s exciting and something that we take a lot of pride in, it’s also always in the back of our minds that we don’t want to be the one to ruin the streak.”
The streak has very rarely been in danger though, as the Lions won every best-of-nine match by a score of 9-0 since Sept. 20, 2006, when the team dropped their third doubles match to Richard Stockton College, and even then they achieved an 8-1 team victory.
This year’s continuation of conference perfection came with an added challenge as one of the team’s top players, senior Allison Tierney, is currently participating in a study abroad program.
The nature of college athletics makes it hard to maintain such a lengthy string of dominance, as players graduate in four years and new, younger players must constantly be integrated into the lineup with the expectation of maintaining the current level of play.
One such younger player is Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette, a freshman from Union, Muniz-Cadorette is 6-0 in NJAC play this year, having lost only five games over the course of 12 sets (each set requires the victor to win six games).
“The tennis team competes at a very high level,” Muniz-Cadorette said. “That was made very clear to me when I was learning about the team. When I came in, I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in the lineup, but this of course came with a lot of responsibilities and pressure.”
As new players come in, the older players must guide them on how to beat the rigors of a 148-match conference win streak.
“If I could give new players advice for the streak, it would be to not overthink it and just go out onto the court and play like you always do,” Aiello said.
Muniz-Cadorette would share the advice given to her by a coach back home.
“He told me, ‘Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.’ This quote is exactly what I try to live by and what other athletes should live by as well,” she said.
Winning has been a constant, repetitive theme for these Lions, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re tired of it.
“Although we’ve won the championship for the four years I’ve been playing, it certainly doesn’t get old,” Aiello said. “Every year we see the representative from the NJAC at our last match and we know what’s waiting for us.”