Rookies on the Radar

On Tuesday, March 29, first-year Sacred Heart University tennis players Matyas Vencl and Olivia Kharkover were named Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookies of the Week. This was the first time either player had received this recognition for their respective teams.

“For me this achievement means a lot as it reflects the improvement of my game throughout the season that I try to consistently focus on,” Vencl said. Freshman Matyas Vencl is originally from the Czech Republic. He appreciates the consistent support and help from his family back home in Europe and noted a few other members of his team t“My head coach helped me significantly during the season by giving me a chance to play, but I also appreciate his great communication on and off the court,” he said. “Both of my captains on the team, Tyler Lowe and William Wibmer, helped me tremendously throughout the season as well.”

He said Wibmer gave him tips and strategies before his singles matches and Lowe is his doubles partner; both players having an impact on his play. He also wanted to thank his freshman teammate, roommate and friend Antoine Hernandez for his support, as well as the rest of his teammates.

Freshman Olivia Kharkover said she is honored to have received this achievement. She was picked out of all the other NEC teams, and she described it as a big achievement that she did not expect to be awarded.

She has won a few matches in a row after coming back from an injury last month, including winning her fourth-consecutive singles match at number five in straight sets, which helped the Pioneers top the Bryant Bulldogs for the first time since 2013. “I’m happy with my results. A lot of [wins] were conference matches too which are the most important matches,” she said.

“Both have been great additions to our team this year along with the rest of our freshmen class,” said Coach Mike Guastelle, head coach of both the men’s and women’s tennis programs. “I think they have adapted to college tennis well in their first season and I feel they will continue to be impact players for us moving forward.”

Kharkover also mentioned what qualities of her head coach help lead her team to success.

“Coach Guastelle knows a lot about tennis, and he knows the way that each of us play and how we act on the court. He gives us suggestions on what we should do because he knows each specific player,” Kharkover said. “He really helps motivates us.”

Vencl said that in the beginning, it was quite difficult to adjust to college tennis and a Division I program since it is very different compared to individual juniors tournaments. But with the help from the seniors and overall support from his team, he was able to adapt quickly.

Kharkover said being a student-athlete and a nursing major at Sacred Heart requires a lot of time management, especially in season. She makes sure to dedicate time each day for both studying as well as playing and spending time with her teammates.

She spoke highly of her teammates and their supportiveness as a group. “They’re here for you for literally anything. They’re like a second family for me because we’re always with each other so many hours every single week from matches and practices so it’s really nice having them.”

Vencl said, “This award motivated me, especially for the NECs playoffs, to help and support my team by bringing important points for the team to then win the team matches.”

The freshman men’s player picked up his second-straight NEC Rookie of the Week this past Tuesday, April 5 after posting a perfect week. He currently is riding a four-game win streak and leads the Pioneers with a total of nine wins on the year.

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams will compete at the NEC Tennis Championship from April 14-16 at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, N.J.

“Both players will be an important part of our success next week at the NEC tournament and I look forward to seeing how they compete in what is our most pressure-packed matches we will play in this year,” said Guastelle.

Sacred Heart Athletics Contributed to this Article.

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