In 2011-12, the first year with a roster comprised entirely of players recruited by Wyzykowski, a youthful SHU tennis team sent a clear message that they are not to be overlooked, racking up wins and milestones on their way to the program's first BIG EAST Championship appearance since the 2006-07 season.
Two of those players, Rocio Portela (Demetrio Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) and Chloe Sher (Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong), have already carved their names into Seton Hall history despite have completed just their second collegiate season.
As a doubles pair, Portela and Sher toppled 13 consecutive opponents in the spring to rise to the top spot in the school record book as the duo with the most wins in a single season, finishing with 15. Along the way, they also surpassed the career mark for victories as a tandem, completing the season with 26 wins all-time, four ahead of the previous standard.
In singles, Sher followed up an impressive freshman campaign by posting a 14-4 record and defeating eight of nine BIG EAST opponents in the spring. Her success did not go unnoticed as she became the first player in school history to earn BIG EAST Player of the Week and All-BIG EAST selections.
This year's squad also received a substantial contribution from three freshmen in Anna Guryanova (Moscow, Russia), Maria Rodriguez (Bogotá, Colombia) and Madison Shoemaker (Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia). Together, these newcomers combined to record 37 singles wins as Rodriguez and Shoemaker each reached double-digit win totals and Guryanova finished third on the squad in winning percentage.
Following the team's trip to Florida to compete among the best of the BIG EAST, Wyzykowski sat down to reflect on the season and speak about the future of the program in this year's final installment of At The Net.
Q: This season culminated in the program's first BIG EAST Championship appearance in five years. How might that experience benefit the team in the future, especially with such a young roster?
Wyzykowski: The experience can make us stronger next year in the tournament. Dual matches and the conference tournament are two different animals. Teams or players that are getting their first taste of the tournament format often do not play up to their full potential. Having earned a berth this season with such a young team, I believe we will be more prepared for the moment next year
Q: When we spoke before the season, you cited the team's attitude as one of the biggest differences from previous years. How do you think that factored in to the team's success in 2012?
Wyzykowski: It made a big difference. Believing in each other, supporting each other and uniting under a common focus of a team goal helped make this a better season. .
Q: With next season in mind, you're losing two seniors (Courtney Kilarski and Elizabeth Verow) to graduation. Talk about how they will be missed and some of the new roles other team members will need to take on in their absence.
Wyzykowski: The experience that Courtney and Lizzie brought to our team is not something that is easily replaced. They did a great job providing a steady leadership presence over the past year. Lizzie has been part of our starting lineup since her freshman year and was our captain this year. She was one of the hardest workers on the team at every practice and match and the way she filled that role was a subtle yet vital part of our success this season. This year, we set a solid foundation and there is a strong desire within our program to continue improving. Karina [Cordero] will become our captain and I will look to her to set a similar example. Also, Chloe [Sher] and Rocio [Portela] will be upperclassmen and are already asking what they can do to help take the team to the next level.
Q: You also have two new players signed to join the 2012-13 squad in Julia Keenan and Alexandra Landert. What are some of the things Julia and Alex will bring to next year's squad?
Wyzykowski: As a team, we are trying to be stronger in doubles and I think this is where Alex and Julia can have the most immediate impact. This spring, we were 7-2 as a team when we won the doubles point. Alex and Julia will both come in already possessing a strong doubles skill set that will help our team take the doubles point more often. Also, they are talented individually as well and should help us field a lineup where we will compete at every position.
Q: Looking ahead, what is the next step for Seton Hall tennis and what is it going to take to get there?
Wyzykowski: Our next step is to finish in the top half of the conference. With Temple coming in and powerful programs such as SMU, UCF, Memphis and Houston joining in the future, the BIG EAST is developing into an imposing tennis league. Given that fact, we will need to improve our consistency as a team and throughout our singles lineup in order to be a factor and get to the level we want to be at. I have no doubt that our program and our girls are up to the task, now it is time to put the work in.