Sacred Heart University’s women’s tennis team saw their historic season come to an end on April 16. The Pioneers finished the season by competing in their first NEC championship in program history. Although the team suffered a 4-0 loss to LIU, they are looking to build upon this season’s success.
The team is led by head coach Mike Guastelle. He has been with the University since 1994, when he started both the men’s and women’s programs at SHU. Guastelle took a step back from coaching in 2017 to focus on his position as Senior Associate Athletic Director, before returning to coaching in 2021.
“When I took over last year, I knew we had the talent to be a championship level program in our conference and reach the NEC finals,” said Guastelle. “However, there were certain changes and improvements I felt needed to be made after my first year and the team embraced those changes this year.”
Implementing these changes helped the team reach the NEC Championship.
“The goal all year was for our program to play on Championship Sunday at the NEC tournament,” said Guastelle. “Even though we lost in the final, it was a special year for the program. We had never reached the final in the 29 years of the program.”
Vitalina Golod and Katisiaryna Starastsenka had impressive performances during the championship and were selected to play on the All-Tournament team.
“It was a great honor to receive this award this season, especially as a senior. I worked very hard, so I believe it was well-deserved,” said Golod.
Both Golod and Starastsenka are deserving of this recognition, according to Guastelle.
“Both Kate and Vitalina are very high level players who bring a strong sense of work ethic and competitiveness at the top of our lineup,” said Guastelle. “They help push our other players to play at their best each day.”
The team sets itself apart from others because of their passion. The women are highly passionate, an attribute that shows up in games and throughout the season in their results.
“We are all fighters. Collectively, we know what hard work means and how to apply it to the matches we play. In other words, we do not give up,” said Golod. “We may have bad days, but we don’t let it affect our fighting spirit. We are also not frightened by the competition – we understand that there is something to be learned from every single match.”
Even though the Pioneers lost, they view this season as a stepping stone toward future success.
“We return pretty much everyone from this year’s team so the sky’s the limit for the team in 2023-24’,” said Guastelle. “My hope is they bring the same desire and hunger they had this year so we can make another great step and win an NEC Championship next year.”
Sacred Heart University Athletics contributed to this article.