The team and head coach aren’t holding anything back this year.
On a sunny Wednesday in Poughkeepsie, New York, the men’s tennis team returned from a sweltering run around Marist’s riverfront campus only to begin a long practice session on the tennis courts in preparation for the University of Connecticut (UConn) invitational this upcoming weekend. The sweat dripping off their backs was a motivational tool for the men, rather than a dreaded chore given to them by their head coach Gary Sussman. Just a few days away from the first matches after a grueling preseason in the summer heat, Sussman is preparing for a stellar season with his passionate players.
In May, the Red Foxes faced off against Quinnipiac for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Semifinals and came up unsuccessful. The team, however, does not dwell on this loss. “We talked about that in the preseason meeting. We had beaten Quinnipiac here [Marist College], and I felt that they were more experienced by having been there before. We had a very young team last year,” said Sussman. “Our guys have learned from that, and they’re carrying that with them now going into this season.”
With that tough loss at the end of last season, Sussman is taking a new approach to this year’s team. He has recruited two new high-level transfer players, Nestor Giribet and Augusto Gonzalez Bonorino, who walked onto campus ready to compete. Giribet joined the Red Foxes from Nicholls State, and Bonorino came up North from the College of Charleston. “We’ve changed a few things,” Sussman said. “We’re working a little bit more on agility rather than strength to get the guys as fit as possible, and to improve their quickness.”
With some new players and new coaching approaches, the goal of the team remains the same: compete. Compete for the MAAC title is what they will do. Sussman and the players are feeling great and confident about their season. From returning four All-MAAC players and having a new level of experience, it’s nothing but up from here on out for the men’s tennis team. “They’re a great bunch of guys,” he boasts. “They all get along great, and that’s huge. They spend a lot of time together, and that was one of the pluses from last year. Even with all the new guys, they bonded very quickly. Now that core group is back this year, and they’ve welcomed in the new players.”
One can say Sussman is the luckiest coach on campus – he has been gifted with players whose passion for tennis runs deep in their veins. The returning players have formed a great bond with one another, and the new recruits are fitting right in. “The most important thing is that they all love to play,” Sussman said. “And you can’t teach passion, and these guys all have passion to play.”
Sussman has worked hard this preseason to create an environment of healthy competitiveness that the players can take pride in. “We had a preseason meeting on the last Sunday in August, and we talked about the goals of the team,” Sussman mentioned. “Lars [Shouten] and Chris [Gladden] would like to leave a legacy. They know we have a very good team on paper.”
After successfully coaching through preseason and setting the standard for the new season, Coach Sussman looks to this weekend of competition in Storrs, Connecticut. The UConn Invitational takes place all day on Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15. The Red Foxes look forward to taking their experience, intensity, and skills to Connecticut and showing what they are made of.
Edited by Ryan Loeffler