Women’s tennis coach honors her team’s efforts
Q&A with the coach of MIT Women’s Tennis, whose season ended abruptly after five matches
MIT Women’s Tennis only had the chance to play five matches before the remainder of the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they set a strong precedent in these dive games. Opening the season with two 9-0 wins against Brandeis University and Vassar College, they played their final three games at the ITA Division III National Women’s Team Indoor Championship. At the Indoor Nationals, they earned another 9-0 win against Brandeis among two losses against Pomona-Pitzer and University of Chicago. The Tech asked Coach Carol Matsuzaki to reflect on the shortened season and its effects on the Women’s Tennis team.
The interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
TT: What are you most proud of about your team’s progress this year?
Carol Matsuzaki: I am most proud of the team cohesion this year. We had 5 first years join this year and coming together as a big family always takes intentional effort by everyone involved. Although our season was cut short and we only got to play 5 team matches, I felt that we had already come a long way in being invested in each other and in competing hard for each other.
TT: What makes the current team and the graduating class of seniors special?
Matsuzaki: This year we had a good mix of experienced and wise veterans as well as enthusiastic newcomers. The juniors and seniors on the team had been to 2 NCAA Elite 8s, and the returners on the team had an amazing year last year where they outperformed their expectations in the postseason and made an incredible run. The first years on the team were the #3 ranked recruiting class in the nation. Our lone senior on the team is Lara Rakocevic, who won her 100th match in what turned out to be her final tournament. I am so proud of her for sticking with the team for 4 years and being such a great leader for us.
TT: Even though you didn’t get the chance to play a full season, is there a moment that sticks out to you this season?
Matsuzaki: We were only 5 weeks into the season when we learned that that 6th week would be our final week of the season together. That 6th week was quite memorable. The day that we learned that that would be our final week, we had a team meeting, and we decided to keep practicing everyday that week. Everyone came every day, and we did the best we could to be there for each other and enjoy the sport the best we can as a team.
TT: Are there any words of wisdom you have for your team or the MIT Community as a whole?
Matsuzaki: In this time Mr. Roger’s quote “look for the helpers” sticks out in my mind. There are so many people trying to help right now, most notably the frontline medical workers. And even though many of us cannot help in that same way, we can do our parts by checking in with people, connecting groups together, and leaving a positive trail. You never know how you can affect someone, especially someone who might have really needed your connection in that moment!
The Tech, along with the rest of the MIT Community, is deeply saddened that Women’s Tennis was not able to show their strength for a full season this year. However, it’s clear that the team is powerful and has a strong sense of community that will leave a lasting impression for all teammates. We commend Lara Rakocevic for the excellent example she has set and for her leadership over the last four years, and congratulate her on her 100th match. We look forward to watching the Women’s Tennis team continue to succeed over the coming years.