The Seton Hall women’s tennis program struck an ace in July when it replaced head coach Greg Wyzykowski with Riza Zalameda.
Zalameda has an experienced tennis background, previously coaching at Columbia University as an assistant coach. There she helped lead the Lions to two NCAA Tournament appearances. She also played in college at UCLA, where she was also an NCAA Champion. She took part in a brief professional career before turning to coaching.
“I’m lucky to have so many mentors in life throughout my time playing and coaching,” Zalameda said. “From my father to my college coach, I’ve watched them coach and talked to them about their journeys coaching and you’re learning every day wherever you go as a coach, it’s a constant evolving of philosophy I can use.”
The SHU position will be her first as a head coach, one that she believes will have a learning curve and take some adjusting to.
“The biggest change will be having a bit more of a final decision in how the program will go,” Zalameda said. “As a head coach you really get to develop the players, have ownership and have a platform to influence them in their games and lives. I’m already learning a lot from the women because they are so eager to hear about what I have to say from my thoughts and experiences.”
Last season, the Pirates finished with an overall record of 10-11, as well as a 4-5 conference record for a team that had lacked in consistency at different points of the season. Under a new coach, players already see a difference in Zalameda’s coaching style that they believe will ultimately be beneficial for themselves, as well as for the team as a whole.
“This year we are more motivated and we are working a lot harder,” junior tennis player Katie Kim said. “We’re putting a lot of energy into our fitness, and coach is inspirational to us and already our team is more cohesive.”
The main reason for such a strong outlook? The competitive aspect that Zalameda has brought in.
“We want to push ourselves because not only do we know that we can get better, but she knows that too, and she has a strong work ethic,” sophomore player Thandy Kangwa said. “We’ve seen who she is as a person, and it inspires us because she can take us far beyond our limits.”
Already in its fall season, the team has enjoyed success at the West Point Invitational at Army West Point on Sept. 25. Kim and Kangwa took home a championship in B Doubles, while Kim also won the D Singles Championship. The Pirates will have a heavy month of competition in October until a break before the spring semester, playing three more events in the next three weeks. Both Kim and Kangwa know what Zalameda is looking for them to contribute.
“All of the hard work we are putting in now is going to help us in the Big East season and the more we listen to her and work as a team, she has the capability to take us farther than ever before,” Kangwa said. “She teaches us not how to just play like a champion but think like one too.”
Kim reflects the same sentiments.
“She has an an effect on our outcomes but also in our everyday lives including at practices and our nutrition, as well as a lot of life lessons but impacts us not just through tennis,” Kim said.
Zalameda is looking to further her impact on the athletes off the court as well.
“I understand the developmental phases, and the progression of it all but I think I connect with the girls really well,” Zalameda said. “We all have this one mission as a team to do well, and expectations are to do your best, be fearless, and have conviction when you do something and results will come, because something I’ve learned is to focus on the process.”
Matt Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.