Before Anthony Arocho ’18 started his freshman year playing tennis at Brown, Dave Schwarz — the tennis coach who recruited Arocho when he was in high school — stepped down to coach the women’s team at Claremont-Scripps College. Brown brought in Bryan Koniecko, a young former All-American tennis player at Ohio State, to coach the team. This summer, Koniecko left to coach the women’s team at the University of Central Florida.
“We’ve kind of had a spiral of head coaches flowing in and out of Brown,” Arocho said.
Tim Gray was named the men’s tennis coach Sept. 1, six days before he met the team for the first time and practices began. The team played its first tournament Sept. 16, just over a week after Gray arrived.
The tournament was “not ideal in terms of timing,” Gray said, adding that with a new team, he prefers at least three weeks to prepare and become acquainted with the players before competitive play begins.
But Gray’s 30 years of coaching experience — he has coached men’s and women’s teams at Widener University, Washington College, Florida Southern College, Eastern Michigan University, Auburn University and Bradley University — helped him bring stability to the team despite his impromptu arrival.
“Since (Gray) has a lot of experience, he knows how to manage a team,” Arocho said. “You know what the guys are feeling, you know when they’re hurting, you know when they need to push a little bit harder, when (they) need to maybe take a couple days off.”
Co-captain Lucas Da Silveira ’16.5 said Gray deftly balances encouragement with sternness: “After every practice he’s really trying to pump us up, but obviously when we need to improve, on the other hand, he’s firm and makes sure that we don’t get complacent.”
Since he has been with the team, Gray said he has “been very impressed with the professionalism, the level of play, the way that these guys approach practice and competition, the way guys are stepping up to lead.”
The team’s season consists of two parts: the tournament season and the head-to-head season. The tournament season started with the Penn Invitational in Philadelphia Sept. 16-18, and it concluded with the ITA Regionals at Penn State Oct. 20-25. While key members of the team — including Da Silveira, Peter Tarwid ’18, Gregory Garcia ’17 and Will Bader ’20 — missed time with injury, Arocho, Da Silveira and Gray agree that the healthy players in tournament play show promise.
The fall season is “a process,” Arocho said. “Come springtime, when it’s our main season and we’re competing every weekend, that’s when the work we’re putting in now will start to show a little bit more.”
After winter break, the tennis season resumes with head-to-head matches spanning from January to April. But during the interim between the tournament and head-to-head seasons, the team trains diligently. The two-month period is the perfect time for the players to focus on optimizing their fitness in preparation for the spring.
While last year’s team had no seniors and only two juniors, the team this year consists of two seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen. Da Silveira said this makeup will yield a different kind of season: “The guys know the drill, and that goes a long way.”