The South Hill’s only unbeaten team suffered its first loss of the season Sunday, but the loss also ended a record-setting win streak that had dated back to 2004.
The women’s tennis team entered its match against unbeaten Stevens Institute of Technology on Sunday with 57 consecutive Empire 8 Conference victories. When the match was completed, the longest winning streak by any Empire 8 Conference team in a league-sponsored sport had been snapped.
Head Coach Bill Austin said the win streak was something the Bombers should be proud of. He said it was strange to feel the negative emotions that come after a conference loss again.
“It’s an experience that no one on the team had, and it was an experience that I haven’t had in a long time,” he said.
Assistant Coach Melanie Cohen was part of the win streak during her four years on the South Hill. She said she was honored to be part of it as both a coach and a player.
“It means so much not only because I came in as a freshman, then after I finished my four years I was able to keep that tradition alive,” she said.
Austin said the team never focused on the winning streak while it was happening.
“The streak was very seldom a topic of conversation,” he said. “Maybe after the season was over, but it was never anything we focused on. You don’t need that added pressure.”
Senior captain Kelsey Harness said the team did not focus on breaking the record of consecutive conference wins, but consistently performing well against each opponent.
“We focused on every match as it came, we didn’t take any team for granted,” she said. “Even if they don’t have a good record, we just come out and try to be competitive.”
Cohen said though the team prepared for Sunday’s match the same way, she tried to give it insight on how beating a conference team impacts the program.
“I told the girls, not from a coaching standpoint, but from a player’s standpoint, how much beating a conference team really means and how much it means to the alumni,” she said.
Austin said the end of the conference win streak was inevitable.
“Part of playing the game is you win with class, and you better lose with class because eventually streaks get broken,” he said. “You need to be able to handle losing with the same amount of class and grace as you handling winning.”