Coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign, which included the resignation of former head coach Greg Wyzykowski at the conclusion of the season, first-year head coach Riza Zalameda has been a breath of fresh air for the Seton Hall tennis program.
A former standout player at UCLA and assistant at Columbia prior to coming to Seton Hall, Zalameda has wasted no time in making an impact on her players.
“I’m very thankful to Pat Lyons and Rachelle Paul for seeing the potential in my ability as a head coach and for giving me the opportunity to take on the program,” Zalameda said.
Instead of coming in and implementing a my way or the highway style of coaching like some first-time coaches might, Zalameda has let her players determine the potential of the team.
“For me it was really important to see where the team is and what they can handle,” Zalameda said. “Right from the get go there were three things that I made very clear: this was their team and need to take ownership for what they achieve, that they keep an open mind about the process, and that they are not ordinary college students – they came to Seton Hall to fulfill a role that is demanding, challenging and special.”
Junior co-captain Katie Kim has definitely noticed the differences between this year and last year.
“Everything this year is so much more intense and so much more efficient,” Kim said. “A lot of the stuff that we do benefits our games and our fitness. She really knows what she’s doing and she knows what she’s talking about.”
The team has bought into what Zalameda has been preaching since she first arrived in South Orange and she has done an excellent job at bringing the girls together after a tough season where cohesion was a problem among the players.
“The team’s cohesiveness is a living entity that ebbs and flows so when we take that perspective towards it we just have to keep things fresh and communicate,” Zalameda said.
Zalameda credits a large part of the team’s progression to her two co-captains, Kim and junior Luize Strike.
“When I selected Luize and Katie as co-captains I was confident that their leadership would really bring the team culture to where it needs to be to make any progress,” Zalameda said. “They really help with the feedback with the training and give the team a voice. I trust them and I think they trust me. That’s very important to me.”
Zalameda gets most of the credit for the quick change in mentality and mindset of the program, but she knows that she could not have done this without some helping hands along the way.
“I’m really thankful to work with an incredibly hard working and experienced coaching team- including our strength and condition coach, Angelo Gingerelli, and sports medicine athletic trainer, Dawn Purington, who enable us to get better every day,” Zalameda said.
“I also have the pleasure to work with two volunteer assistant coaches whose passion and knowledge will add dimension and leadership to the team. We are so eager to compete in the Big East Championship in April and put it all to the test.”
As for the players, Zalameda has had a profound impact on them in her short time here at Seton Hall.
“She’s like a mentor to all of us on and off the court,” Kim said. “She’s a great coach.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.