In 2022, the Cal Poly men’s tennis team finished tied with UC Santa Barbara for the regular season crown following last season, where they won the regular season title outright after going undefeated in the Big West.
Much of the greatness from this year’s squad came from their ability to play as a team. Tennis at its core is an individual game, but head coach Nick Carless has been relentless in instilling the idea that tennis at the collegiate level is a team sport.
“There also is the extreme importance of getting those guys to come together and want to play just as much for themselves as they do for the guy next to him, and even more so,” Carless said. “I think most players that have played for me will say that I’m a very fair, but extremely demanding coach. I am very kind of hard-headed in my ways of believing how important the team culture is.”
Many of the individual players that contribute to Cal Poly’s success are international and came to America to play tennis for the Mustangs. Looking from the outside, it is easy to view all of the players through the same lens, but coming from a different country and environment presents a whole new set of challenges for these athletes to deal with.
Whether it’s adapting to a new school and community, leaving behind family and friends or dealing with a language barrier, these players have worked hard just to be in this position — let alone be successful.
There are five players on the roster who have come from other countries to play for the Mustangs: freshman Bastiaan Weststrate from Voorschoten, Netherlands, graduate Hendrik Inno from Someru, Estonia, redshirt sophomore Fernando Fonseca from Mogi Mirim, Brazil, redshirt sophomore Alexis Delisle from Paris, France and redshirt sophomore Joe Leather from Bath, England.
Leather expressed the challenges of having minimal time to adjust to the American lifestyle before his first season on campus began, saying the first week was the “hardest part.”
“I was in a new place, my parents didn’t come over with me. I just came on the visit on my own, and then four or five weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, I flew over and didn’t know what I was doing. My coach picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at the dorms, and he said ‘there you go,’” Leather said. “I’m so grateful for that, having to figure stuff out for myself.”
These players not only bring different cultural backgrounds and personal perspectives, they also provide a level of dedication that can only be realized by someone in their position, according to Carless.
“I don’t want to say that they’re hungrier than the American kids to pursue that dream, but they realize that it’s special and that it doesn’t exist everywhere,” Carless said. “They …….