Building a Team of Champions
“Being a family is what separates us from most teams,” states Troy Donato, head coach of Wilmington University's women's tennis team.
In July of 2019, the Delaware-based university hired Donato to turn a team of four players with a 0-9 record into a team of winners. Donato well surpassed all expectations — recruiting eight players in less than two years - and most recently finishing their fall season with a 9-0 record.
“When the women first arrived, I knew there was something special unlike most teams I worked with,” Donato said. “This team was hardworking, confident, and most importantly, like a family.”
Like many collegiate teams, the Wildcats did not compete in its 2020-2021 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Donato took this opportunity to ensure his team stayed close, hosting various Zoom meetings throughout the year. He said he believes this bonding was one of the initial reasons for the team’s success.
This past year, Donato’s team broke multiple school records and won various championships. During the ITA Regional Championships - with a pool of 76 players representing 19 teams in their region - all four competing Wildcats advanced to the round of 32. Wilmington broke school history, becoming the first team with four players to reach the round of 32. Out of Donato’s four players, three made it to the round of 16, again breaking school history and becoming the only team in the region competing with three players still in the tournament.
However, the round of 16 wasn’t enough for this team. Wildcat, Neus Ramos Moreno (Fr.), competed in the finals, becoming the first player in the university’s history to do so at the ITA Regional Tournament.
Throughout the season, Donato’s team record was 69-6, only dropping one doubles match. In both the regular season and conference play, the Wildcats went 9-0 - the first time in school history. Out of 24 teams, Wilmington earned a regular season championship and won the 2021 CACC conference tournament. For the first time in school history, the Wildcats were one of three teams to receive an automatic bid to the regionals in the spring season. This May, the Wilmington Wildcats will compete for a chance to play in nationals as one of the final 16 teams in the nation.
Thanks to these incredible achievements, Donato’s team won multiple individual awards. Morena was named player of the year and first-team all conference, three players - Begona Gomar (Gr.), Valentina Ivankovic (So.) and Jess Purdy (So.) - were named second-team all-conference, and Donato himself won the Conference Coach of the Year award.
“I've been asked many times what the change was,” said Donato. “My answer is always the same passion. Passion for the game, a passion for success on and off the court, a passion for everyone on the team to succeed, and a passion for making history and being named champions.”
Donato said he’d like to thank numerous people who supported himself and his team throughout the run.
He said he’s thankful for his parents for coming to every home match and being so supportive. He thanks the friends who listened to Donato talk endlessly about tennis and encouraged Donato to do his best, along with Dr. Stefanie Whitby, Erin Harvey, and all of Wilmington University athletics. He thanks Wilmington University for giving him what he called “an opportunity of a lifetime,” along with Pablo Montana, director of tennis at the University of Delaware, for the countless hours he spent on the phone with Donato about recruiting and coaching. Last but not least, Donato said he’s thankful for his Assistant Coach and owner of Delcastle Tennis Center, Boubacar Toure, who he said is the heart and soul of the team.