| By Ricky Becker


Former highly-ranked Eastern junior Stephanie Loutsenko logged a daily journal from the inside of Emory’s NCAA Division III run while they were at the year-end championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Saturday, May 18, 2013
We arrived in Kalamazoo, Mich. after a pretty long day of traveling. We got to our hotel, which is an adorable bed and breakfast called The Kalamazoo House, and were greeted by the sweetest owners who had even baked us fresh chocolate chip cookies! Tomorrow we have practice from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. so we can prepare for early morning matches.

Sunday, May 19, 2013
Today started off great with an incredible breakfast. I shared some phenomenal blueberry pancakes and quiche with my teammate and senior captain, Jordan. We all played well in practice and our energy was really up. After practice was over, we headed back to the hotel to rest for a little and then went on a quick run at 5:00 p.m., followed by a nice stretching session. Then we hit the showers and attended an intense banquet with all the teams. It’s been a good day and I’m excited for our first match tomorrow against Middlebury. It’ll be the toughest match we face so far in the tournament, but I have a lot of confidence and trust in my team that we will be able to handle them.

Monday, May 20, 2013
Today was our first day of matches and let me just say, it was extremely stressful! Since I am injured, I have the opportunity to sit on player’s courts and take on a coaching role. We woke up again to an amazing breakfast and then headed over to the courts for our warm up. Middlebury is an extremely difficult team to play against because they get so energized and pumped up. It’s hard to play against a team like this because it feels like we’re never loud enough. Doubles was first. I sat on court and coached our third doubles team of Brenna Kelly & Emma Taylor. I guess I did something right because they were able to pull out an 8-5 victory. After winning two of three doubles matches and three of the first four singles matches, we won 5-2. It was such an overwhelming relief to win the match because the Middlebury girls are really good competitors and never give up. After the match, we headed over to Panera for lunch and then went back to tournament site to watch our men’s team play. Unfortunately, they were not able to pull it out, but they definitely put forth a good effort.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Today we played Amherst and it was the most intense match we’ve had thus far this season. After having breakfast, we headed to the main site to begin warming up. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side early in the morning and we had a bit of a rain delay. I was on court coaching third doubles again, and again they were the first match done, winning 8-2. Watching is definitely the most stressful part because when you play such a good team, you never know if things will go your way. The last time we played Amherst, during our regular season, we went down 1-2 after doubles so we knew that it was important to get these matches. Thankfully, our team pulled out two of the three matches. We went into singles really pumped up and excited to compete. The atmosphere was so intense and everyone was cheering their hardest. The Amherst men’s team came to support their girls, but that didn’t stop us from cheering our hearts out. I pretty much lost my voice from cheering so hard. It was four matches each and it all came down to fellow freshman, Marissa Levine. Once she won the final point, our team went crazy. We had gotten our revenge and had managed to beat the number one team in the country. It was truly an amazing feeling and reminded me why I love my team so much and why I am so thankful to be able to play for Emory. Tomorrow, we’re in the championship round and play against Williams. Even though Williams has won Nationals the past five times, I trust my team and am confident in them. We definitely proved ourselves today, and I’m hoping that tomorrow will be no different!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Today was different. Playing against Williams is always tough because not only is their team very capable, but they also have a huge fan club who cheer very loudly. Once again, our third doubles team was able to win (probably a result of my fantastic coaching abilities). After doubles, we were ahead 2-1 which was important because last time we played them, we were down 2-1 after doubles. Our coach reminded us that Williams was definitely going to come out guns blazing in singles, and that they did. Sitting in the stands was hard because as time went on, I think we all knew that things weren’t going to go our way today. When we lost the deciding point, it was heartbreaking. It was tough to accept that we lost, especially after how hard we had worked the entire season leading up to this point. But, I’m so confident in our team and I know that the next three years are going to be big for us. We really came together as a team, especially during Nationals, and even though we didn’t come out on top this year, I think that things will go differently in the years to come. Hopefully next year, I’ll be able to report that we are National Champions!

Ricky Becker is director of tennis at Pine Hollow Country Club and independently coaches high-performance juniors year-round at Bethpage State Park and Jericho/Westbury Tennis where he is the junior tournament director. He can be reached by phone at (516) 605-0420, e-mail rbecker06@yahoo.com or visit JuniorTennisConsulting.com.