October 4, 2008

Change of heart has Perry back at tennis’s helm

After announcing his plans to join the D-I tennis program at the University of Richmond at the end of last season, head coach Marty Perry decided to reverse course and will return for his sixth year at the helm of the men’s and women’s tennis programs.

Perry’s decision to remain with the Maroons came shortly after he had accepted the head coaching position of the men’s team at Richmond. Making the call to move to Virginia had been rushed, he said, without much time to recognize the full weight of leaving Chicago.

“I basically interviewed two days after our conference tournament, then I was offered the job a few days after that,” Perry said. “I really didn’t have that reflective time.”

Family played a large role in both Perry’s initial interest in coaching at the University of Richmond and his ultimate decision to stay in Hyde Park. A Virginia native, Perry thought returning to his home state would help bring his wife and children closer to their relatives.

A week or two before Perry was to take over for the Spiders, however, he and his family realized that after five years of living in Chicago, the city had become their home. Uprooting the family felt less and less appealing.

“Thinking about leaving made us see that this was our home now,” Perry said. “My kids are in Lab School, and my wife likes her job here at the University. In the end, it was better for our immediate family to stay.”

Putting the brakes on his move to Richmond proved fairly easy. The Spiders hired Billy Boykin, formerly an assistant coach at the College of Charleston, as their head coach in July, and athletic director Tom Weingartner allowed Perry to reassume his post with the Maroons.

Perry returns for what should be an exciting season for the South Siders, if last weekend’s showing at the ITA Central Regional is any indication. Rejuvenated by their seven recruits, the women sent four players to the quarterfinals, three of them rookies.

First-year Jennifer Kung in particular has made a name for herself early in her Chicago career. Already named a UAA Athlete of the Week, she took first at the ITA’s singles competition. She claimed six matches over the course of the three-day event at Oberlin College, sweeping five of them in straight sets, including her 6–0, 6–2 blanking of DePauw second-year Janelle Arita for the title.

Also making it deep into the singles tournament were first-years Kendra Higgins and Carmen Vaca Guzman and second-year Chrissy Hu. Higgins reached the semifinals by taking four matches in straight sets before falling to Arita 4–6, 6–4, 7–6 in the semis. Both Vaca Guzman and Hu played into the quarterfinals.

“Looking around the region, there weren’t too many other freshmen making an impact at all, and we had a whole team of them making an impact,” Perry said.

While the strength of the singles play is a good indicator of the depth on the women’s team, the young squad will have some adjustments to make in doubles. The tandems of Hu with first-year Tiffany Nguyen and Higgins with fourth-year Vindya Dayananda made the quarterfinals, but their competition showed how much they had improved in the off-season.

“We don’t have a lot of players with a lot of doubles experience, college doubles anyway,” Perry said. “We’ve got some catching up to do in that department, but we’ve got the talent and the right players to be successful in that.”

Coming off of a 10–9 record and a third-place finish at UAAs from last year, the women are hoping that the class of 2012 will help carry them to a spot at NCAAs and challenge Emory’s 20 straight league championships.

On the men’s side, their first test of the season comes this weekend with their ITA Regional hosted by the defending national champions, the Wash U Bears. They’ll be looking to build on the young talent they recruited last year, including NCAA alternate and UAA Rookie of the Year Will Zhang.

Between working on the continued growth of the men’s team and the up-and-coming rookies on the women’s squad, Chicago tennis is poised to make a strong run this season.

“I’m happy I’m here, and I’m glad I didn’t go,” Perry said. “Our teams are strong, committed, great people, and I look forward to being around them.”