Even as finals kick into high gear for the majority of Stern students, a select few will begin a different sort of challenge next week. For the first time ever, YU’s women’s tennis team will be competing in the NCAA Division III Tournament for women’s tennis beginning May 10th–the first day of finals. The team won the Skyline Conference championship this past October, making them the first women’s team in YU history to qualify for a NCAA Division III Tournament.
Although YU’s tennis team only plays in the Fall, many NCAA teams play in Spring season, so as to take advantage of the weather and play outdoors. This is why the tournament is always mid-May, after all the NCAA teams–those who play in Fall and those who play in Spring–will have finished their seasons.
The timing of the tournament presented some issues to the YU team. The first day of the conference is scheduled for the first day of finals, so accommodations needed to be made for team members facing tournament and final overlap. Assistant Coach Danielle Carr said that any students who are “academically eligible to play have been permitted to adjust their finals schedules to be able to play and take exams.”
Tennis team member Hannah Brodskaya, SCW ‘19, said that “although finals time is super frustrating, intense, and busy, the academic advisors really helped with rescheduling the finals that conflicted with the tournament and I’m personally much happier with my finals schedule now than how it was before.” She told The Observer that members of the team were allowed to reschedule finals that conflicted with the first two days of the tournament. “If we get past those [days], then we’ll have to figure out the rest, but for now we just rescheduled finals that were on May 10th and 11th.”
Another concern with the date of the tournament was the brief rumor that the the tournament would be scheduled for Shavuot, and that it would need to be moved to accommodate the YU team. When asked about this possible scheduling conflict, Coach Naomi Kaszovitz responded that “the matches [which] are scheduled by the NCAA, were always scheduled for May 10th as far as I know. I think people were speculating that it may be on Shavuot because [the tournament] is always [in] mid-May.”
Another issue that had come up amongst students was the attention YU gave to the men’s basketball team for their Skyline Conference win in February, as compared to the attention the school gave to the women’s tennis team for their victory. The men’s basketball team’s victory was met with great fanfare and school-wide celebration–ice cream trucks were even brought to each campus. Some students complained that although the women’s tennis team had accomplished the same thing as the men’s basketball team–winning their Skyline Conference–they had not received the same sort of fanfare.
However both Kaszovitz and Carr disagreed with these complaints. “I think our win was publicized and highlighted very well by the administration. Amazing videos were sent out. We were highlighted at the YU Hanukkah dinner. Wherever we went people congratulated us. I got a lot of congratulatory texts, emails and calls from all over,” Kaszovitz asserted. She also felt that any discrepancies that did exist in the treatment of each team’s victory were logical, and not based on gender. “Though they didn’t give out free ice cream in our honor, nor did the TV networks interview us [this is likely because] basketball is more universal than tennis, so I get it. Plus it [was] “March Madness” across the country [at the time of their Division III Tournament] and so makes sense they got the coverage they did.”
Carr agreed that the the women’s team was appropriately and fairly celebrated. “The administration, [the] athletics [department], and [the] public have responded appropriately and excitedly to the women’s success…everyone was over the moon for us! I saw videos, internet pages, blog posts, and the girls said in the community there was much celebration and mention,” Carr told The Observer. Like Kaszovitz, she attributed any greater coverage of the men’s victory to the fact that, simply, “tennis is not basketball.”
As the tournament fast approaches both Kaszovitz and Carr are confident in their team’s chances–at least in round one. “I think that the competition at the NCAA tournament will be tough, but these women have the drive and desire to compete and win,” said Carr. “Getting past the first round is a definite possibility, but past that, we just have to wait and see. Whatever the outcome is, it has been a great year and this is something that the women can see is absolutely possible, [can] work towards in future seasons, and even strive to go beyond.”
Kaszovitz expressed a similar sentiment. “The NCAA is going to be a tough first round, but we will be adequately prepared for the challenge. It all depends who we get in the selection. We have a real shot at getting to the second round. Beyond that I couldn’t begin to speculate, but the sky’s the limit with these student athletes. They’ve got the will and the drive.”
They pointed out how hard the players have worked, both in the Fall on season and even in the Spring off season. To make sure they keep their game strong, team members “played in the off season together, at clubs, had coaching, [and] they have been present in off season practices” said Carr. “They really pushed themselves on the courts in the Fall, we are hoping to recreate that momentum now in the Spring,” said Kaszovitz.
Although being part of the team is hard work, Brodskaya thinks it is definitely worth it. “I really enjoy being on the team. Everyone is really dedicated and although balancing school and athletics isn’t easy, the coaches and the team make it fun…Making the tournament was an amazing feat of accomplishment that the team worked really hard to achieve.”
Team member Rachel Slater, SCW ‘18, has also been pleased with experience on the team. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Stern’s tennis team; I loved the group of girls on the team and the bond we’ve built throughout the year, as well as getting to play a sport I love in a Jewish institution. Being on the women’s tennis team has been one my highlights of my college career.”