Cougar of the Week: Dan Stein

Image: Scott Levine

The men’s tennis team may not play many matches in the fall, but senior captain Dan Stein is approaching each practice as though it’s the day before a crucial inner-conference match in mid-April. This mentality has spread throughout the team and helped them power past Endicott last week in a 7-2 victory. However, Stein is well aware that the team has a long road ahead of it.

Obviously the matches in the fall are a little different than the matches in the spring.

You’re not quite in the main part of the season, but the games still count towards your record.

How do matches from the spring differ when it comes to the team’s goals?

Well, we have a couple of new freshmen: Spencer Pinkney at [third singles], Jimmy [Keogh] and Jeremy [Albright]. We lost three captains and we lost two kids to study abroad, but we’re going to get one back in the spring. The fall is all about trying to find out what works and what doesn’t, and it’s about trying to get the pieces to fit.

What has worked so far?

So far, we’ve done well with doubles. We’ve prepared very well with doubles I would say, putting Antoine [Martin] and Spencer at one. I’m playing second doubles now with Fernando [Pinoargote], but I played with Zack [Goodstein] during the Wheaton invitational which was different because of the format in which we could only play singles or doubles. That was good for me and Zack. We played together last year and we have some wins under our belt. We’re just trying to find out who gels with each other.

What do you think the team needs to work on for the spring?

Our main focus is to win the doubles matches for the spring, because we play those three matches first and it really sets a tone if you can go up 2-1 or 3-0. Then, you know you’re playing with the lead.

And that takes pressure off the singles players.

Exactly, and we’ve had some trouble in the past years when playing down 1-2 or even 0-3, then you have to win five of the six singles matches and it puts a lot of pressure on players. So doubles matches are definitely our number one priority.

How has being the captain of the team differed from not being the captain last year?

I’m putting the team first and really focusing on how the team performs. I’m not necessarily looking for the wins and losses, just making sure everyone that’s playing puts their best effort into it so that we can come off the court feeling good. We lost our number one last year who was a very intense player. I’m trying to follow in his footsteps and become that intense player, and trying to pick up the intensity during practice so that we can apply it to match days.

It’s good to have a guy like that to kind of set the tone. My high school basketball coach used to say that “culture never graduates”.

That’s a very good quote. It’s something that we’ve been working on with our coach. He’s still fairly new, but all the guys have had him now their whole collegiate career. It’s nice that we’re starting to build an atmosphere and a culture down there at our tennis courts.

And I feel like you’re much more in tune to that culture as a captain. Now, you’re kind of in charge of the culture as opposed to only being the beneficiary of it.

Yeah. It’s kind of nice to be the high man on the totem pole and make sure that everyone’s bringing their best effort and really push kids in practice. So that’s something that I try and definitely focus on: getting the most out [of] players come practice so that we can definitely put that towards the match days.

It seems like fall matches have a special level of importance for you now that you’re a captain, since you’re trying to just gauge where the team is and where it needs to be. How is playing in these fall matches different than before?

You just mentioned it: gauging where we are, seeing what works and what doesn’t, but still making sure that this fall season sets the tone for the rest of the year. So if we can perform now and be competitive now, and bring that through the offseason and into the spring, that will be helpful for us. We have had some problems where we’re kind of going through the motions, but we want to treat the fall season individually and really put our best effort into it. And we’re still playing matches that count to our record.

Do you like or dislike that it counts to your record?

I’m a fan of it. I like it. It’s still a match when you come down to it, we’re still playing other teams that have been practicing just as long as we have and not longer, and we’re doing the same thing on this side, so I’m all for it.

It kind of forces you to take it seriously.

Yeah. Even though it’s a shortened season, we’re still practicing, I’m still playing five or six days a week, and it’s still competitive. It’s just not as long as the spring season.

How many more games do you have scheduled in the fall?

As of now we have one more, and then we’re going to start playing matches in February. We have one at home on October 6, and that’s the last of them.

What are you looking to get out of this last game?

We’re playing Union. They’re definitely more competitive than Endicott and we’re going to have to prepare and train hard for the next couple weeks to hopefully get the W. I know our team is capable of doing it.

Last but not least, give Scarlet readers an amazing reason to go to the game against Union and to watch tennis matches in the spring.

You know what? Tennis is actually a really fun sport to watch. You can get super close to the courts, and it can be interactive with some of the players. I like playing for the fans, that’s for sure. It’s a good time down there. I know it’s far away, and not many people know where it is, but if you haven’t been down there, why not give it a shot? You don’t know what you’re missing.