Ask men’s tennis head coach Rick Edelmann to explain the factors behind his team’s impressive 5-3 record so far this season, and he’ll say it comes down to one word—depth.
“In the years that I’ve been here, this is the deepest team we’ve ever had,” Edelmann says. “Everybody can play, up and down. If you’re winning at the bottom of the lineup, you’re winning overall. We have 10 guys on this team who can really play.”
Over the past several years, BU has added a lot of high-end talent to its roster, culminating in this spring’s strong showing. The team is 4-0 this season at the Track & Tennis Center.
“We’ve just been playing much sharper at home,” Edelmann says. “We don’t approach it any differently. We do have a different type of surface here, but I don’t think that plays into it much. It’s more of the attitude of playing at home—a home-court advantage.”
Much of the Terriers’ success can be attributed to the top two players, Josh Friedman (SMG’13) and transfer Chanon Varapongsittikul (SMG’15), who have battled for the number-one spot this season.
“Instead of everything at the top falling on Josh’s shoulders this year, Chanon has taken a lot of that burden off,” Edelmann says. “They’ve gone back and forth all year. But once again, it’s been our depth. Our next eight guys have been playing very well and even the freshmen have been stepping up, which is great for us.”
This season is the last that both the men’s and women’s tennis squads will compete in the America East (AE) conference. Next fall, along with several other BU varsity teams, they will play in the Patriot League. Because of the move, BU teams are banned from competing in the AE championships this spring. Originally, Edelmann’s tennis players expressed reservations about leaving the AE, but he quickly convinced them that the switch made sense.
“Right away, when my players found out they couldn’t compete in the conference tournament, they were all up in arms, but I explained to them how much it helps our school academically,” Edelmann says. “We also beat the Patriot League conference champion a couple of years ago, so I think it’s going to be great for us, and we’re really excited about it.”
Since becoming women’s tennis head coach in 1985, Lesley Sheehan (SED’84) has built a dynasty. The former BU standout has coached the Terriers to 22 America East titles and 13 NCAA tournament appearances. But last year proved a disappointment for the team. The loss to Stony Brook in the America East tournament semifinals broke a string of 18 straight conference championships.
“Last year we had one of the toughest years since I’ve been coaching,” Sheehan acknowledges. “Our goal was to make some changes and have a stronger year this year, which we’ve done. We’ve got a lot of players that fit well together. I think our chemistry is better this year.”
The Terriers have played a tough schedule this season, but their 6-5 record includes some big wins, notably a 5-2 victory over last year’s A-10 champion Richmond two weeks ago in Orlando. They’ll face another formidable opponent when they play the top-10 ranked University of Texas at Austin on April 7.
Like the men, the women are undefeated at home this season, while sporting a sub .500 record on the road. They play their final home matches of the season later this week, against Albany on March 28 and UMass on March 29. Sheehan echoes her men’s team counterpart, saying that playing on home turf always gives the team a competitive edge
“First off, our surface is different, so we’re more used to it than teams that come in here, which gives us a home-court advantage,” she says. “Second, some of the teams we play away won’t play us at home because of the surface.”
Lauren Davis (CGS’14) has occupied the team’s number-one spot all season, a rare accomplishment for a freshman. Vivien Laszloffy (SMG’13), who was named America East Player of the Week last week, has also been a top player.
Sheehan says that while her players, too, were disappointed initially about not being eligible for this year’s AE tournament, they’ve accepted it and are looking ahead to the challenges of playing in a new league.
“We’re ready for the change,” Sheehan says. “We’re ready to play some new teams. I certainly am.”
The BU men’s tennis team takes on the Holy Cross Crusaders in a nonconference match this afternoon, Tuesday, March 26, at 3 p.m. at the Track & Tennis Center.
The BU women’s tennis team meets the Albany Great Danes on Thursday, March 28, at 3 p.m. before finishing off their home schedule with a matchup against the University of Massachusetts Minutewomen on Friday, March 29, at 3 p.m. Both matches are at the Track & Tennis Center and are free and open to the public.
Paul Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.