The tennis program at Seton Hall is no stranger to change.
For the third time in four years, the Pirates have changed their head coach midway through the season, as coach Kevin McGlynn returned to the Hall. McGlynn led the team to the most successful tenure in its program’s history from 1991-96, and under McGlynn, Seton Hall had accumulated a 70-34 record, the program’s only undefeated season NCAA Tournament berth.
“It was an opportunity,” McGlynn said. “This was a great landing spot for me.”
Although the season did not go as planned with the Pirates exiting the Big East Championship in the quarterfinals and finishing 7-11, their lowest winning percentage since 2014-15, McGlynn is excited for the future of his squad, as they are returning five players for next year. Even with the sophomores and juniors coming back, he sees everyone contributing to next season’s accomplishments if they are willing to go through their training.
“I am going to support them to provide them that opportunity,” McGlynn said. “But at the same time they need to match that opportunity with their conditioning, their mental approach, and how hard they work. It’s the intangible things that if we can improve on across the team, I think we can be pretty successful.”
From a player perspective, the change at the helm may have disrupted the program’s chemistry at the beginning, but over time the switch brought the squad together.
“The coaching change was really rough for the team because we were all trying to bond,” Taal said. “We had a strong bonded team without a coach, we kind of had a team and a coach apart. That switch when we got a new coach, we really got a team and great team spirit and great team bonding. Our coach really helped us with the downs. It’s great with the new coach and we are really excited to play with him.”
Even though the team solidified its unity, there will be two seniors leaving in Katie Kim and Luize Strike.
“I can only say positive things (about the seniors departing the program),” McGlynn said. “For them, they have had three coaching changes in their time here, which is certainly to not be expected, and I can appreciate what they have been through. I really think they’ve given me tremendous effort. They gave me a lot, it wasn’t easy for them. I’ve never been in that experience before but I think they responded very well.”
Strike’s absence will be felt the most, as she is a consistent presence as a key player and team leader. Even with the departure of a featured player, McGlynn expects his group of underclassmen to step up.
“Certainly there is going to be an expectation for the returning players to fill the role that Luize had at top of the lineup,” McGlynn said. “I think we have the talent to do that. It’s just having the mindset and accepting the responsibility of whoever is playing number one, that’s a real responsibility.”
Overall, the program will also be welcoming newcomers, and Taal thinks it will provide the spark for a successful campaign next season.
“I think the expectations for next season with a lot of freshman coming in is fresh energy, new excitement,” Taal said. “Energy and positivity is definitely something to look forward to.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.