Tennis, Anyone?

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By Greg Royce, Director of Athletics Communications

SNHU’s tennis programs have become regional powers under the guidance of head coach Greg Coache.

When one thinks of the top athletic programs at SNHU, men’s and women’s tennis aren’t usually the first thought.

Now that’s changing.

Since fall 2007, the Penmen women’s tennis team, under the guidance of Coache, has evolved into the standard-bearer in the Northeast-10 Conference. SNHU has made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and captured back-to-back league regular season and tournament titles. The Penmen entered the 2011-12 season with a 30-match regular season win streak in conference play, the fourth-longest streak in conference annals.

Not to be outdone, the men’s program made great strides in 2010-11 after Coache took over that program midway through the prior season. Coming off a three-win campaign the season of the change, SNHU compiled a 12-7 record, tied for the Northeast-10 regular season championship and advanced to the conference finals. The Penmen, who had the league’s Player and Rookie of the Year, also earned the first NCAA berth in program history.

“We couldn’t have had a lot of success we’ve had without the support of the university and the athletic department,” said Coache, who has already earned four Coach of the Year awards in his short tenure and has a combined record of 73-31. “It’s really important, and it certainly helps me in selling the program and the school and getting recruits.”

Culture Change
Player Amber Chandronnait ’11 came to SNHU in the fall of 2008 after starting her career at the University of Nebraska.

“Coming in, I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but as the years went on, the program recruited really well and we just kept getting better,” said Chandronnait, who recently wrapped up her career as a three-time Northeast-10 Player of the Year. “The program grew really fast, and a lot of that is because of Greg. He has the ability to dream big.”

Player John Niland said the entire culture of the program changed with the coaching switch.

“(Greg’s) absolute love for the game and dedication is second-to-none,” said senior Niland, who garnered NE-10 All-Conference accolades this past season playing at No. 6 singles. “We’re practicing when there’s snow on the ground three times a week; we have a workout program, so we’re in a lot better shape than we ever were. Plus, some of the higher-quality players we’ve played on spring break, which we’ve never had a spring break trip before, have only helped to make us better.”

While Chandronnait and Niland could have chosen to compete for established top-tier programs, they both say they are glad they decided to be a part of building a winning tradition.

“I came in wanting to make my mark and to be able to grow along with the program and have it become what it is now,” said Chandronnait, who was also a three-time SNHU Athlete of the Year. “It’s been amazing to watch it grow through everything Greg has done.”

Niland, who served as a team captain this past season, added, “After my sophomore year, when we had the change, I didn’t know if we’d make it to the next level. I never dreamed of making it to the level we are at, but it’s exciting to be a part of it and to be a part of building something,”

Staying on Top
So while SNHU tennis may not be a household word yet, it’s getting there. Coache said he gets more interest from potential recruits from farther away, and more
teams want to play both squads.

Niland knows that the Penmen won’t be able to sneak up on
anyone this time around.

“This year we’re going to have that target on our backs. We’ll have to work even harder, because everyone knows what to expect from us and they’ll be gunning for us,” he said.

Chandronnait concluded, “I want to see that in 10 years (as an alum). I want to be able to come back and still see SNHU tennis as the top team in the conference, continuing what we started.”

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