Seton Hall tennis players Michal Matson and Melody Taal hail from opposite ends of the world, but they have combined forces at Seton Hall to form a dynamic partnership that has turned heads early in the 2018-19 campaign.
Strong performances, highlighted by an excellent showing in the doubles bracket at the ITA Regionals in New Haven, Conn. have drawn attention to the pair, who have played together since their freshman year.
Matson and Taal defeated a pair from host university Yale, 8-6, and then knocked off a team from the University of Connecticut, 8-4, to reach the Round of 16 in convincing fashion. Despite being beaten 8-5 by a high-seeded Syracuse pair following that, the weekend would still go down as a major success.
“Tennis is such a lonely sport,” Matson, a junior from Christchurch, New Zealand, said. “But doubles can definitely change the way you play. You’ve always got their confidence behind you. If you’re not feeling that good you’ve always got that person behind you to say, ‘It’s okay, you’ve got this.’”
Taal, a junior from Ede, Netherlands, also remarked on the differences between playing alone and with a partner.
“It’s a different energy,” Taal said. “Whenever I play with Mikey I feel pumped up and excited, and it’s not a feeling I have playing singles.”
Building an effective partnership takes time. Every athlete has individual strengths and weaknesses and learning how to play off your partner’s strengths can often be a difficult process. Taal noted that after playing together for two years, she and Matson know each other’s strengths and weakness like the back of their hands.
The long hours of practice and review certainly build a strong relationship for play, but the juniors have a great dynamic between each other that helps them both on and off the court.
“One of the reasons we play so well together is that we have a good friendship off the court,” Matson said. “It’s tough with someone you don’t have a good relationship with because then it gets awkward, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m screwing up’, but we both know that we are putting it all out on the court.”
The dynamic duo have proven their ability as individuals and as a partne but in the broader dynamic of the Seton Hall tennis program, Taal and Matson are fully committed to being the best teammates possible.
When speaking of goals for the season, the duo was focused on the team aspect of the sport.
“Being a rock for the rest of the team,” Taal said. “We bring our energy every time we play doubles.”
“We are going to stay at our number three position for the rest of the season and be that guaranteed win,” Matson added. “It’s lower down and we are a pretty successful doubles team, but we are there to help the team win.”
Matson, Taal, and the rest of the Seton Hall tennis team will be back in competitive action in January, beginning with a string of non-conference matchups before starting Big East play on March 1.
Kyle Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or on Twitter @notkylebeck.