Tennis teams explain lineup selection strategies

by Cody Fujii | 2/20/17 2:10am

Before each dual match, the coaches of the men’s and women’s tennis teams have to make the crucial decision about which of their players will play varsity. Both have 11 players on their respective rosters, but not all players are selected to play in each match.

Although neither team employs a strict starting lineup, there is consistency in who plays during tournaments. The evaluation process for the players starts in the fall and continues throughout the year.

“It starts in the fall,” women’s tennis coach Bob Dallis said. “We look at how they do in some of the tournaments in the fall and then how they’re competing throughout the year and in practice.”

Dallis said the lineup is decided based on “who’s going to give Dartmouth the best chance to win.”

Fall tournaments are played over the course of two months, from September to November.

“The women’s team usually puts seven players in the lineup each game, so there is a lot of overlap between the singles and doubles matches,” Dallis said “You’re looking to put out the best players on the court.”

Despite the consistency of starting players, Dallis emphasizes that players practice as a team.

“The whole concept in practice is that everybody is trying to get everybody else better,” he said.

According to women’s tennis player Julia Schroeder ’18, many other schools decide their lineup from the results of practice matches. In other words, the winners of a tournament between members of the team end up in the starting lineup.

Dartmouth has a different system.

“It’s more about where [Dallis] thinks we fit best,” Schroeder said.

Although the fall match results play an important role in shaping the lineup, they are not the be-all and end-all of the starting roster. Schroeder says the coaching staff decides the lineup and starting players based on “where players stand and what’s best for the team.”

Figuring out where each player stands is very important during the fall, as the lineup is fairly solidified by the winter season.

“As a team, we want to figure out who our top six singles players are and what our doubles lineup is,” Shannon Mukerji ’18 said. “Fall is the time when we are testing that and by winter it’s pretty firmly established.”

The starting lineup is fairly established, but it can change depending on the match. On the women’s team, players do not specialize in either singles or doubles.

“Everyone who plays singles plays doubles and vice versa,” Mukerji said.

The starting system for the men’s tennis team works slightly different than that of the women’s.

“Some guys will only play doubles, and some guys will only play singles,” Paul Midgley ’18 said. “But as it happened [at the ECAC Championship] yesterday and today, the six guys who played doubles also played singles so it really depends.”

Additionally, the men’s lineup is more flexible.

“We have 11 guys on the team, all of whom are capable of playing in the top six,” Midgley said. “So it really depends who’s playing best on that day or in the practice before.”

On the men’s team, as on the women’s side, players are evaluated in the fall during tournaments and practice so the coaches can create the most effective lineups. Diego Pedraza ’17 notes that evaluations are based on tournament performance and “a lot of other factors.”

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams have set ambitious goals for this season. The men finished second in the Ivy League the past two seasons, and although they lost twice at last weekend’s ECAC Indoor Championship, Midgley is optimistic about the season’s potential.

“Our main aim is definitely to win Ivies,” Midgley said.

A secondary goal for the men’s team is to qualify for the NCAA national tournament, which they did for the first time in nearly 20 years last season. The women’s team, currently 8-1, has similarly ambitious goals for this season.

“Goals for this coming spring would be to go undefeated in the Ivy League and get a bid to the NCAA tournament,” Mukerji said.

The Dartmouth women’s tennis team is currently 8-1 overall. The men’s team is 3-6 overall.