Men’s tennis Head Coach John Browning isn’t interested in the fluff and feathers that inflates a team’s ego, especially at the beginning of a long season. Yes, he expects good results every year — the team finished second overall in Division III last season — but going so far as to say that he expects a national championship year in, year out, is moot to the long-tenured coach.
“We can’t get to May until we do the things necessary in February,” Browning said. “As soon as you become too focused on what you’re gonna do in May, you start to lose focus on the events in hand. So, [we’re] trying not to talk about [our expectations] as much … that kind of approach helps.”
Staying in the moment. That’s the mantra of this team moving forward. Following a heartbreaking 5-4 NCAA semi-finals loss to Bowdoin last season, that’s all Browning and his team could do. While Browning wasn’t upset with the outcome, his players were.
“[Emory’s men’s tennis program] has lost in close matches in the NCAA’s before, and I’d walk away upset, but [last year’s semi-finals loss] is one of those where I walked away and I was so proud of what the team had accomplished,” Browning said. “And I knew that [the players] were upset, but where they had come from at the start of the season to where they ended up finishing — even though we lost in the semis — it was an amazing year.”
Moving forward from that defeat, Browning said that he didn’t have any specific changes he wanted to implement in order to get over the elusive championship hump this year. Browning wants consistency — no major changes.
“The main thing is keeping it going — keeping up that chemistry and culture that we had last year,” Browning said.
Key components to the team’s success this year will be senior Aman Manji, sophomore Jonathan Jemison and junior David Omsky — three players who each earned UAA Player of the Week honors during the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Oracle Cup this past October. Manji and Jemison in particular are, according to Browning, the most important pieces to the team’s puzzle.
The loss of the team’s No. 1 player, Rafe Mosetick, now an assistant coach for the team, leaves a void that will need to be filled for the team to return to the heights it reached last season.
Other important players to keep in mind are sophomore James Spaulding, senior Josh Goodman and junior Scott Rubenstein. Otherwise, the starting positions are up for grabs. Browning plans on utilizing the upcoming matches to decide which players fall where. This week’s matches — ultimately inconsequential games against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) squads — will help Browning decide which players to trot onto the courts in May at the NCAA’s.
“We haven’t come close to figuring out what our final lineup is,” Browning said. “At this point, we have an idea about what our lineup will be, but we probably won’t know for a while.”
It’s a different team than last year’s was — older, wiser — but Browning wishes that the same methods and practices that nearly resulted in a national championship last season remain consistent.
“We’re going to try to talk about only today’s practice,” Browning said. “Getting better each and every day. I think we’re off to a good start.”