The Mercer women’s tennis team was supposed to have a “challenging year” according to coach Marc Vecchiolla. In an interview before their season began, the coach said he wants the girls to “have fun and work hard” instead of focusing on wins and losses.
The 2013 Lady Vikings were made up of only two second year players and four first year players, two of which had little to no experience playing the game. Coach Vecciolla’s early season plan was to “work a lot on the basics…when the region tournament starts, we’ll be much improved compared to where we are today.”
Despite their apparent inexperience, the team’s hard work paid off, earning them fourth place in Region XIX and a .500 winning percentage.
In a recent interview with The VOICE, Vecchiolla gave credit to the team, saying, “We had a lot of dedicated girls on this team that showed up to practice, worked hard and had fun…all of the wins are just the icing on the cake for us.”
Former Nottingham High School tennis standout Valerie Gapco, is the teams number one player. She finished the regular season with a personal record of nine wins and three losses.
Solemey Owusu and Nataly Hernandez, the two returning players, filled the number two and three spots, respectively. Owusu finished the regular season with a record of six wins, six losses. Hernandez finished just under .500 with a record of five wins, six losses.
Newcomers Tiffany Fortier, Kelly Runzer and Miranda Leone started slowly, but Vecchiolla got them adapted to the game by the halfway point of the season. Fortier, the teams fourth ladder ended with a three-and-six record. Runzer, fifth ladder, finished two and eight. Leone was able to go three and five, playing in the number six slot.
“We were fortunate enough to play some teams that also had some beginners at the bottom of their lineup as well, so that definitely helped,” said Vecchiolla.
In the region tournament, the team didn’t fare quite as well, finishing in 5th place out of 7 teams. They were forced to play short handed in the tournament due to the loss of one player who was ineligible to participate because she failed to meet academic requirements. They had to forfeit the matches she was scheduled to participate in.
The region tournament features six singles and three doubles tournaments, one for each spot in the ladder. Each individual game won, whether it be single or doubles, earns the team one point. The teams are than placed in order based upon who has the most points at the end of all the tournaments.
Valerie Gapco, was able to earn a first round victory in the number first ladder tournament, but she lost her second round match in a close battle to Terra McHenry from Gloucester, who would eventually go on to win the tournament.
Nataly Hernandez and Miranda Leone were also able to win their first round matches.
Vecchiolla is confident that the four first year players from this year’s team will be back next season.
“We’re probably one player away from being the second best team in the region. Hopefully next year we’ll get some more interest and the girls we have now will continue to improve.”
The women Vikings will resume practicing when the men’s team begins competing in the spring. If you’re interested in playing for Mercer’s women’s tennis team, contact coach Marc Vecchiolla at 609-203-9332 or