By Jay Winkler
With a new coach and a young team, the Albion College men (3-7, 1-1 MIAA) and women (5-6, 3-0 MIAA) tennis teams have a breath of new life.
The Brits efforts are paying off in the young conference season. The women are 5-6 overall, but remain undefeated in the MIAA, having won their first three games. The men are having a slower start, standing at 3-7, but opened conference play with an 8-1 demolition of Adrian.
Keith Turner, head coach, has had a long career coaching college tennis in the Division II ranks. Turner brought Limestone College in South Carolina to its first National Championship appearance in 2009, before coaching at Lees-McRae. Most recently, Turner was a private coach.
Coach Turner was pleased with what he saw when he arrived at Albion.
“The teams were a little bit stronger than I expected, to tell you the truth,” Turner said. “Coming from a Division II school, I wasn’t quite sure the level they would be at, but I was pleasantly surprised.”
The players are adjusting to the new coach. Marissa Cloutier, Grosse Ile senior, has seen three coaches in her time at Albion College and likes what she sees in Turner.
“Its nice to know that this guy is going to be around for a while, and he’s doing a really good job,” Cloutier said. “It’s definitely an adjustment, but I think everyone is settling in, and it’s going to be a really good season.”
Cloutier herself has already racked up accolades this season. She has not yet lost in conference play, and was named MIAA Player of the Week on April 1.
Rumor has it that Coach Turner runs a harder practice than his predecessor, Brandon Still. The coach has no plans of backing down.
“I’ve heard people outside the program say that’s the case, that I’m pushing them a little more than they’ve been pushed in the past,” Turner said. “I take that as a compliment.”
The players don’t want him to back down, either.
“He’s very serious compared to the last coaches [Albion has] had that I know of with his agenda, his practice and his attitude,” said Jonathan Gurnee, Midland first-year. “I think he’s really striving to get the team better.”
Cloutier has also been encouraged by the new coach’s philosophy.
“He’s very competitive, and he really wants us all to win,” Cloutier said. “It’s nice to be pushed to win, and he really supports us in working hard on and off the court.”
The Britons are young team, especially on the men’s side. The men have first-years starting at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, and the 11-man roster only features one senior, but the players are optimistic about the future.
“Starting early on the team, we get the experience, we get to see what the older people have been through the last four years,” Gurnee says. “We’re able to take the good in that and improve upon it.”
The team has high hopes for conference play.
“We’re hoping we can win the conference,” Cloutier said. ”We’ve started really strong. We’re undefeated in-conference so far. Our goal is to come in first, and I definitely think that’s something that we can do.”
Photo Courtesy of Megan Sheridan