An Inside With The Men's Tennis Team's Newest Member
By: Shelby Soltau '16
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After working in the Athletic Department and covering the men's tennis team throughout this school year, junior Vince Menon (VM) has officially become a member of the team. Menon made his doubles debut on March 1, 2013 at Saint Mary's College and his first singles appearance on March 3rd against UC Irvine. The team has a 13-9 record overall with three more league matches before the WCC Championship Tournament.
Last year, the team had one of their most successful years and finished the season ranked No. 33 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. After making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Menon and the team hope to once again continue play long after their regular season.
SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) had the chance to talk to new team member Vince Menon about how is transitioning from covering the team to being a part of it and what it is like playing Division 1 tennis after so many years off.
SCB: What is it like being a walk-on and new member of the tennis team?
VM: It's very exciting to join the team especially out of the blue. I couldn't pass up a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play Division I tennis, and it's special to be a part of such a talented group -- one that was ranked No. 35 in the country when I joined. Everyone is super welcoming and we have a really great group of players and coaches. I'm now accustomed to the practice and match routine, and am focused on working hard and taking lots of advice from coaches in order to improve my game. There's a lot of ground to make up as a midseason walk-on! It's also been a whirlwind thus far because everything has happened so quickly. I tried out on February 23, was cleared by the NCAA on February 28, and made my debut the next day at St. Mary's for my first team event of any kind.
SCB: How is your dynamic with the team different now that you are a player rather than a student assistant?
VM: Above all, covering the team meant I already had a good relationship with Head Coach Derek Mills. This has made the transition much easier, because he knows what to expect from me and I know what to expect from him. Now that I'm at practices and matches, communicating with Coach Mills about press releases, game-day roster cards, etc. is even easier. However, I can't call him by his first name any more!
Becoming a member of the team has also been interesting because I now know the personalities and backgrounds of the players I've been writing about. When I joined, none of guys knew who I was or that I was the one writing about the team, which is funny because I knew about each one of them. I've since mentioned that I cover the team for athletics, and it's nice to hear my teammates approve of my match and team descriptions so far.
SCB: What has it been like playing competitively again after about three years off?
VM: Getting back into it has been challenging not only because I hadn't been playing consistently, but because the level is so much higher than anything I've experienced. I was accustomed to intramurals, where big serves and a few shots to the corners were good enough to win the championship. In Division I, every guy has been playing over 300 days a year for many years and as a result their pace, accuracy, mental toughness, and experience is absolutely incredible and simply impossible to match. Since I've gone from playing relaxed tennis infrequently to high-intensity tennis six days a week, I've also needed to be diligent about icing, eating properly, and getting enough sleep since my body is still adjusting to the workload.
SCB: How often did you play leading up to making the team?
VM: In the fall, I had the time of my life studying in Ecuador for four months. I didn't even bring my rackets abroad, however, and was only playing a couple times a week for fun with my friends when I did return to SCU. Until three weeks ago, I really hadn't been playing consistently since intramurals in June, 2012 – nine months ago. Once Coach Mills asked me to try out, I immediately began hitting with my intramural doubles partner and high school coach to get back into shape as quickly as possible.
SCB: Do you prefer singles or doubles? Why?
VM: I prefer playing singles, but think that doubles is very exciting as well, especially to watch at the professional level. I've always enjoyed the one vs. one setup of singles, because the outcome is in your hands. Win or lose, the responsibility and result is on you. I feel like my game has always translated better in singles, too, since I'm able to utilize my serve and groundstrokes more often. My volleys and overheads, which are critical in doubles, are generally my weaker shots.
SCB: With a little over a month left in the season, what do you hope to accomplish?
VM: We've been a little short-handed recently so we're looking to get back to full strength in order to finish the season and WCC play strongly. Our goal is to win as many games as possible the rest of the way and then to go deep into the WCC tournament. Personally, I'm working on my forehand and volley technique. A bigger, more consistent forehand will help me create more opportunities from the baseline and stronger volleys will allow me to come in and finish the weaker shots at the net.