SOUTH ORANGE, N.J.—Replacing Coach Greg Wyzykowski after nine seasons at the helm of Seton Hall tennis was not going to be easy, but new head coach Rita Zalameda and the team picked up two wins in her coaching debut at the West Point Invitational this past weekend.
The performance of the tournament came from Pirate junior Katie Kim who took home the D Singles Championship in addition to a B Doubles title with sophomore teammate Thandy Kangwa. Those wins, along with a solid overall team effort, made for an impressive opening statement to start a new era in Seton Hall tennis.
“I actually cancelled our first event from the original schedule because we really wanted to focus on our training, focus on [the players] getting used to me as their coach and me getting used to how they work on court,” Coach Zalameda said. “We worked on fitness and worked on basic skills so that weekend was really important for us as a program to see where we are at.”
Fitness has been something that both players and coaches have been stressing so far in the fall season. Kim, who won the singles title without dropping a set, has enjoyed her relationship with her coach in the early going.
“I love the way that she coaches me when I am on the court. She knows when to motivate me, push me and then when to calm me down,” Kim said. “She gives me the best advice on the court, strategically, emotionally, and mentally she is just there for us. [The first tournament] went very smoothly.”
In her first season as the head coach, Zalameda wants to develop chemistry and with a team that is filled with freshmen from overseas her experience as a professional tennis player will certainly be of value to this younger group.
“They really just need more experience under their belt and they had some nerves which is natural, but they were great because they just admitted it ‘I was nervous’ and from there we are just going to build on it,” Zalameda said. “[The freshmen] are all international and I have traveled the world myself so I get where they are coming from and how much support they need from me.”
Zalameda, who won a tennis national title at UCLA, wants to use her experience to help the players on this team reach similar success one day. With the season itself still young, Zalameda has implemented a rallying cry to help motivate her team.
“If you are going to do something, own it. That has been our hashtag. Our slogan is ‘own it,’” Zalameda said. “Like coming out to the court and doing what you are trained to do, but also being accountable for your actions and if you win and you are really good bask in that glory, really embrace it and have that swagger.”
That message to “own it” has helped to change the entire atmosphere and attitude around the tennis team to one filled with positive outlooks.
“[The atmosphere is] definitely a lot better,” Kim said. “We are a lot more intense, more motivated and I think one of the biggest changes is that now we really believe that we are going to take this team to the next level.”
Coach Zalameda and the Seton Hall tennis team will look to build on their great start as they travel to the Navy Tournament that will be held from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 in Annapolis, Md.
-Sean Saint Jacques