New England

College Knowledge: MIT Women's Tennis

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | March 31, 2022

CAMBRIDGE, MA - Carol Matsuzaki, a 10-time NEWMAC Coach of the Year, is the winningest coach in MIT women’s tennis history. In her 24 seasons at the helm, Matsuzaki has created a positive, inclusive and winning culture that’s led the Engineers to two National Elite 8 appearances. This season, her squad is off to a 5-1 (at the time of writing) dual-match record and she hopes to continue that success to the postseason.


Matsuzaki shared some of her keys to success, recruiting tips and reasons for excitement in getting back on the court in 2022 after nearly two canceled seasons. 


What type of student-athlete do you seek out when recruiting at MIT?

There are so many different types of student-athletes out there! In terms of academics, the recruit needs to meet the academic standards for admission to MIT, which are very high! They should also have an interest in studying a field that MIT offers. The recruit should also be at a tennis level where they can contribute to the team in practices and matches. Having some doubles skills is a bonus. Other than that, I am open and really do not have a ‘type’ of recruit that I am searching for. The magic happens when we come together.


What can a prospective New England recruit do to impress you if they are interested in MIT tennis?

Start by writing an email to me ( introducing yourself and why you’re interested in MIT!


What advice would you give to a New England junior who might be interested in MIT?

One piece of advice would be to take the initiative and get in touch with me, rather than having your parents write the first email or make the first call. I know it can be hard, especially if it’s your first time reaching out to a college coach, but you will earn my respect if I can see it’s hard but you still did it!


Last year, New Englander Vanessa Kitova was one of your captains. What did she mean to your program?

Vanessa was one of the most caring leaders we have ever had on the team. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know Vanessa and truly miss seeing her every day. One of the things that I remember about Vanessa is that as busy as she was at MIT, she would always take the extra time to check in with her teammates or give someone a kind word when they needed it most. 


Another thing that stood out about Vanessa is that she was amazing at holding the most interesting conversations…but did not know it! Our first “debate” was about the benefits of engaging in small talk (I was ‘for’, she was ‘against’)!


Also special is that Vanessa was a two-time recipient of the Vikki Auzenne Memorial Leadership Award, which is probably the most prestigious award given out to a team member. It is completely peer-voted and recognizes a player that demonstrated extraordinary mentorship within the team.

What have been some of the keys for you to be able to create and maintain such a winning culture at MIT?

I think it’s so important to recognize the legacy of excellence that past MIT players have left on this program. First conference championship, first NCAA appearance, first NCAA Elite 8 appearance, first top 20 ranking, first top 10 ranking, etc. All of those firsts give the next group the confidence and a little bit of enjoyable pressure to go for the next first.


I also think it’s important to let each team find its own identity. This year’s team is loud, clutch, and there is a tremendous amount of appreciation and understanding for what each person brings to the team.

What does winning conference Coach of the Year 10 times mean to you?

It is always such an honor to be selected as a Coach of the Year because it is almost always a peer-nominated and peer-voted process. These are my competitors taking the time to recognize me and I am truly grateful.


What can you attribute all the recognition to?

I think this is a result of the team consistently engaging at a high level both in competitiveness and in sportsmanship. One of the things I am most proud of about our program is that we can be fierce competitors and not lose ourselves in that. I also think that whatever we do, it comes down to our relationships with others that is the most important when I stop to think about it. Some of my closest friends are my competitors and that makes me happy. Shoutout to the WolfPack!


After having much of the 2020 season and all of last year canceled, how excited were you and your team to get back on the court for a full season this year?

I was extremely excited, but at the same time I have to admit that I had some uncertainty about how things would go. In a regular year, there are three classes of returning players and one class of first years. The first years have a lot of examples to follow and they usually catch up to routines and culture pretty quickly. Thinking about the prospect of having 3 classes of players with no college dual match experience was different. But after a little bit of time and a slow start, I saw that the major positive of this situation was that it gave everyone a chance to contribute to a brand new team culture that I think is spectacular. I love where this team is at and very excited to see what we can do in the next couple of years.


You've already had some huge wins this season. What are the goals the rest of the way? 

Because most of the players have never played a spring season, I am taking it week by week and month by month with them. It’s important for me to communicate what each section of the season means so that we can compete with a shared intention. It’s a lot more fun that way!


We started with a couple of dual matches to get going, then we had a couple of awesome opportunities at Indoor Nationals and matches during spring break to go for some ‘firsts’. 


Up next for us is the NEWMAC conference season, and then comes the postseason, which is always the peak of excitement. But more than anything, it’s important that we understand that we compete as a team and that each of us has an important role in making this experience great, and that we have to be intentional and have some forethought in this pursuit.


To learn more about MIT Women’s Tennis, visit their team homepage

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