Freshman Becky Guzzo was casually hitting the tennis ball around with one of her friends in early September when her Ithaca College athletic career took an unexpected twist.
Women’s Tennis Head Coach Bill Austin and sophomore Cristina Nunez, 2009 Empire 8 Player of the Year, caught a glimpse of Guzzo’s talent on the court — her quick, knifing swing that lashed at the ball with power — before a practice and asked Guzzo to take some swings.
“They just said, ‘Oh, come down to practice with us for a couple of days, and see how you fit in,’ and then it just kind of happened,” Guzzo said.
Since then, Guzzo has been a productive player for the women’s tennis team, which has won 51 consecutive Empire 8 conference dual matches.
Guzzo was originally recruited to play lacrosse and has double-timed lacrosse fall ball this season, playing tennis on weekdays and taking part in lacrosse workouts on weekends. Though Guzzo didn’t initially plan on joining the women’s tennis team, she has made an immediate impact — posting a 5–5 singles record and a 10–2 doubles record.
Guzzo wasn’t completely new to the sport, having earned six varsity letters playing tennis at C.W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville, N.Y.
Though it’s not unusual to have multi-sport athletes at the college, Austin said Guzzo’s situation is new for the team.
“[It’s the] first time I’ve had a lacrosse player/tennis player,” he said. “It’s a little bit of uncharted water.”
Becky Bedard, assistant coach for the women’s lacrosse team, said Guzzo is a driven and committed athlete, even as a freshman.
“Becky has shown great dedication and maturity in managing such a busy schedule as a young student athlete,” Bedard said. “Despite missing practices here and there, she hasn’t skipped a beat.”
From her firm stance to the way she grips the racket, Guzzo said her lacrosse skill has translated over to her tennis game.
“With feeding, I can place it really well for lacrosse,” she said. “That helps in tennis because you’re always trying to hit certain spots on the court.”
Senior Melanie Cohen, a typical doubles partner with Guzzo, said Guzzo’s surprise addition has been beneficial for the entire team.
“None of us hit as hard as she does,” Cohen said. “It’s great to have different styles of play on the team, especially when you know you’re going to play an opponent who plays like that.”
Guzzo has not only impacted practice but also the starting lineup, playing fourth singles and second doubles this season.
Nunez said Guzzo’s attitude and play has sparked the Bombers’ lineup.
“It’s always amazing to have fresh legs in the starting lineup especially in a high position,” Nunez said. “She’s always so positive and so happy. Very rarely does she ever get down in a match or frustrated.”
At the Empire 8 Championships on Sunday, Guzzo helped the Blue and Gold win their sixth straight Empire 8 title, pairing with sophomore Allison Young and posting a 8–2 win at third doubles.
Guzzo said she’s enjoyed tennis and is going to try to continue playing two sports for all four years on South Hill.
“I love the team,” Guzzo said. “They welcomed me really quickly even though I was late coming into the season. It’s probably one of my favorite teams I’ve ever been on.”