Now that @CoachSilverio has been on the job for a year, hear what she has to say about her first season.
— ND Women's Tennis (@NDWomensTennis) July 7, 2019
Cameron Corse: The Family Standard
Cameron Corse is a junior on the women’s tennis team, hailing from Baltimore, Md.
We came into this season motivated. Last year, we welcomed our new coach, Allison Silverio. She brought so much value to the team, and we set a lot of new standards. That year, we worked really hard, but it just didn’t turn out exactly how we wanted. We were one spot out of the NCAA tournament, and we felt that miss the whole summer.
Entering the season, what worked to our strongest advantage was that we had set those standards last year, so we knew what we wanted to do and we understood our coach’s expectation. We could really get down to business this year.
Setting the Stage
The fall was a mixed bag in terms of success, but we had some good wins. The matches we won were confidence-boosters, and helpful to get competition under our belts.
Our coach made a brave move to switch up some of the doubles teams, and I commend her for it. I played with the same doubles partner for two years, and we had a lot of great matches. But, our coach’s willingness to try to mix around some of the pairs proved successful. I played one match with our freshman, Page Freeman, who I ended up playing with during the season.
We had plenty of fun moments in the fall from football Saturdays to playing non-conference schools, all while counting down the weeks until the spring season. The biggest challenge in that period was knowing what we wanted to do, and hoping that we were doing it the right way.
That worked out really well for us, because we wanted to be playing our best tennis in May. We really trusted the process, and when it came time for the spring, we were ready.
In January, we came back a couple days early to work with Sam, a military trainer from The Program. We were a little skeptical. Our coach said it would be fun. How can military training really be fun?
One day, we swam for two and a half hours straight, between each lap doing push ups and burpees in perfect formation. I’m not a swimmer, so I never thought I’d be able to do something like that. After almost three hours, the last challenge that we had to do was the Sweatshirt Challenge. Everyone had to put on a sweatshirt on, then you had to tread water and take off your sweatshirt, give it to someone else and then put on their sweatshirt the correct way, all in under 40 seconds.
We had a couple girls that just weren’t very comfortable swimming or treading water. So, not only were we figuring out how to put on our own sweatshirts, but also we had to build a human seat for them. We would tread water, and they could sit on our hands while they figured out their sweatshirt. It took us maybe 25 or 30 tries to get it, almost an hour’s time, which was incredibly physically and mentally exhausting at the end of the day.
After we finished those two days, we went back and all fell asleep at 4 p.m. for the night. We were exhausted, but fell asleep with smiles on our faces knowing it was a great bonding moment for our team. I had to give Coach credit – it did end up being fun… in its own way.
We knew that if we could tackle that, especially while a lot of teams were still on their Christmas vacation, we were ahead of the game. We conquered it, so it gave us a lot of confidence before the season even started that all our hard work had been paying off.
We took on the spring season immediately after, starting in mid-January. With a 6-3 record, we traveled to Florida to face No. 22 USC. It was College Match Day, so it was televised on Tennis Channel.
The nerves all day were unbelievable, because we had a 6 p.m. match time. For me, the day was a blur until the match started. All I remember is that I was so nervous. I can’t even really pinpoint why; probably because we would be on TV, but I was so confident in our training.
Another challenge was that we were playing outdoors. We’d been indoors for six months at that time, and now we were playing against a team that plays outside everyday in the wind.
It was very stop-and-go before the match. We practiced in the morning and afternoon, but with the ceremonies around the match, it was anything but quiet. For the national anthem, we got to walk out with a little kid. You see pro athletes walking out with a little kid, and you hope it means something to them. It was pretty neat to be on the other side of it.
When the match finally started, we found our rhythm. It was really fun once we started getting to play. I could see the camera crew, and my parents were there. We had a good crowd of lots of Notre Dame and USC fans.
I didn’t play my best tennis that day. I lost my match, but I just had so much fun cheering on my teammates while they were still on court. I felt like I was out there playing with everyone. Only after seeing pictures and replays of the match did I realize how much I was jumping around, and screaming between every point. I was so proud of my teammates and all the hard work that they had put in that they got to showcase during this match.
It came down to the wire. We were down three-two, so we had to win both the matches on court. In the final match, Julia Lilien was still playing. She had pulled out some great wins before this earlier in the season for us, and this day was no different. In the end, we upset USC. We put in so much hard work and to finally get the Notre Dame-USC rivalry, it was some sweet icing on top of a televised match from the tennis headquarters of the U.S in Florida, and it’s a day we’ll remember.
That night, and even the next couple of days, we were so high on those emotions. No one went to bed that night, even though we had an early flight out the next day. It was just too exciting to sleep. After a challenging fall, things were adding up.
The next weekend, we were back at our home courts to take on No. 4 N.C. State. Page and I earned a doubles win over the No. 2 doubles team in the country. We just wanted to have fun and play with confidence, because we’d been working really hard. Things were clicking, so we played free. We attacked them, which is what we wanted to do. We wanted to throw the punches first.
After a five-minute break, we were on to singles matches.
I made my goal to stay out on court as long as I could. I just wanted to fight until the end, and things ended up falling my way. I could see my opponent, the No. 16 player in the country, was getting really frustrated. I was playing next to Page on one side, and she’s always super fiery, and Julia on the other side, who was also sending a message to her opponent. There was so much positive energy that I think it beat NC State down.
Playing aggressively is one of my strengths. I like to come forward a lot, which is a little unusual in women’s tennis. Not many girls like to come to the net, so my coaches have really helped me develop that into my game plan, and it throws a lot of girls off. They’re not used to girls serving and volleying. Things ended up falling my way, and I beat the No. 16 player in the country. Within the span of a week, we had beaten USC and pocketed two additional top twenty wins against N.C. State. We were on a roll.
🏆 National DI Player of the Week 🏆
Two ranked wins, one HUGE weekend for Cameron Corse.
— ND Women's Tennis (@NDWomensTennis) February 25, 2020
A New Normal
What became the end of our season was a whirlwind, and it took me by surprise. I’d been reading articles about Wuhan and everything happening there, but I didn’t realize how quickly it was going to hit the United States.
We flew down on a Wednesday to Duke over spring break. Thursday, we were practicing, and our coaches were on the phone. They had a lot of meetings, and we knew it probably wasn’t looking great. The Duke match was cancelled, as the school had pulled out before the ACC did. Then, everything was canceled. There were definitely a lot of tears, but I think we came around pretty quickly, realizing that it was so much bigger than sports. There are lives on the line, so it’s our social responsibility to stay home if that’s how we can help best.
— ND Women's Tennis (@NDWomensTennis) March 13, 2020
The season ending was a lot of weird emotions that I didn’t process for a while. It probably took me a week of being home before I finally realized the new normal. We do team meetings five days a week now. Once we started figuring out what “virtual training” looks like for us, that’s when I finally realized that this is for the long haul, as far as we can see.
Our virtual training is a combination of team and individual meetings, and watching film once a week. We’ve found some different ways to have fun such as rotating who leads team Zoom workouts on Wednesdays. We even challenged the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team to a mileage competition.
We talk to Sam from The Program every Friday during this virtual training period. We really bonded with him. He’s a part of our support staff and team now. It’s been really nice for us to have an outside perspective. We’ll tell him our goals for the week and how we’ve been going about accomplishing them, and he gives us feedback and direction. He also gives us some crazy workouts.
One goal we set out this offseason was to come back stronger than a lot of teams. This season made us hungrier, because we got a season-high ranking of 15, which was really the track we wanted to be on, especially after the previous year. We’ll be that much more motivated for next year, especially with four freshmen coming in. We’ll make sure we’re clear about what our team goals are so we can hop right back on that train together to keep working hard.
— ND Women's Tennis (@NDWomensTennis) February 26, 2020
Looking at next spring, another goal is to host NCAAs. If you’re a Top-16 team, you get to host the first two rounds. We have potential to do that, especially as we were ranked 15 at one point this season. If I could fast-forward to next May and we’re hosting the first round of the tournament, that would be pretty sweet.
I’ve enjoyed spending more time with my family – my parents and older sister – during this time. Through summer school and internships, I hadn’t been home for a while. Taking time and playing some Scrabble and board games, that’s one positive from all of this.
The flip side is that every time I log on for a Zoom lecture, I just miss school and my teammates that much more. I’m not a big fan of texting, so it means a lot to me to engage with people face-to-face. It’s been pretty natural staying in touch with my teammates, which I think is a testament to how close we are. We FaceTime after team calls and Snapchat, but it’s not the same as being with them in person.
When I committed to Notre Dame, I was a junior in high school. I’ve heard other schools use “family” as a marketing phrase. However, I have found out that family is the perfect word to describe my team. I would call all my teammates my sisters. So many parents come in for our matches. I live with a teammate and her mom always made sure we had groceries, and would leave me M&Ms on my desk. Our teammates’ parents would have us over for meals, and even our coach’s parents came to every single match. We really are that ND Family.
My biggest motivation at school, on tennis courts, even in the classroom, is my team. That’s our team’s greatest strength. Being by their side on court or cheering for them when my matches are finished – those are definitely my favorite moments. They’re all such caring people, and we all have our own quirks. We’re different, but best friends, which is amazing. I couldn’t handpick a better group of girls than my ND Family.