Tennis teams discuss new facility

Vasilis Vardakis, the men’s tennis team captain and a senior marketing major, practices in the YSU Tennis Center. Photo courtesy of YSU Sports

By Hailey Rogenski

The men’s and women’s tennis teams at Youngstown State University consist entirely of international students. These students come from many different cultures. This gives the coaches and other players of the teams an opportunity to communicate interculturally among such an ethnically diverse group. 

Ulises Hernandez, the men’s tennis coach, said working with the international players is a unique experience for him and the team. 

“It’s been very different at first,” Hernandez said. “Then I adapted to it and to different cultures and to everything that each of them bring to the table. One might bring a certain cultural norm and the others might adopt it as well as myself.”

Mickael Sopel, head coach for the women’s team, said he doesn’t see any differences between himself and his students, despite their cultural differences. 

“What I have learned is that in the end we are all the same, [despite] our cultural differences and our ways of living, we are very similar,” Sopel said. “We are human beings and we have the same goals and the same objectives.”  

The students also share their cultures and experiences with their teammates. Vasilis Vardakis, captain of the men’s tennis team and a senior marketing major, said it has impacted him greatly.  

“That was the biggest impact I’ve had in my college career because I’ve had the ability to meet people from all over the world and to create and build the culture of this team,” Vardakis said. “It’s incredible to work with only internationals because every one of them brings something different and we’re trying to build the same thing in YSU altogether.”

The tennis team began playing in its new indoor practice facility last July, and it’s been helpful for both teams, according to the coaches and athletes. The facility is located behind YSU’s baseball field and was completed last March; however, due to the teams having no active season at that time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it couldn’t be used until this past summer. 

According to Vardakis, having the facility on campus and indoors has had a huge impact on the team. 

“Whenever we want to come out and practice or work on specific things individually, we can do it whenever we want to,” he said. “It’s always open for us, and it’s always great to see that tennis is getting bigger for us in Youngstown and in the Ohio area.”

Both tennis teams are competing in conference matches right now, and the teams are doing well so far. The men’s Horizon League record stands at 4-2 and the women’s stands at 7-1. 

The tournament consists of teams from Cleveland State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Oakland University, Milwaukee University, Northern Kentucky University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Tamara Teufl, captain of the women’s tennis team and a senior criminal justice major, discussed the conference tournament in more detail.

“We are looking to win the Horizon League’s conference tournament,” Teufl said. 

The men’s and women’s tennis teams play invitationals in the fall from September to November, and they return to play dual matches during the months of January through April. Teufl said the conference tournaments only take place in the spring. They begin in March and end in May.    

“We are practicing basically through the whole fall, and we don’t have as many matches and in the spring when we come back we start immediately to practice. Our first match is usually a week into the semester,” she said.