Nine of the eleven members of last fall’s men’s varsity tennis team have left the team to protest the UR Athletics administration and head coach Anna Khvalina. According to former players, the decision to quit was based largely on the administration’s lack of response to their complaints concerning coach Khvalina, which started more than two years ago.

After submitting negative coach evaluations in 2005 and 2006, the returning members of the team met with Athletic Director George VanderZwaag in May 2006 to discuss ways to improve the team.

This meeting yielded no positive changes, so the players decided that more drastic action was necessary. They sent a letter to VanderZwaag in late December stating that they were going to leave the team unless his administration could promise them a new coach by next fall.

“We had to make it very clear that we needed a new coach to save our team, and we felt that the letter was a good way to do it,” former captain and junior Thanos Kantarelis said.

While the ultimatum was extreme, Kantarelis said it was necessary.

“Protesting by not playing was really the only way to make it crystal clear that there are serious issues,” Kantarelis said.

The administration made it clear, however, that they could not discuss employment issues regarding current staff members.

“It is never appropriate [for me] to comment on personnel matters,” VanderZwaag said.

The nine former team members met with VanderZwaag, Associate Director of Athletics Andrea Golden and Interim Dean of the College Richard Feldman early yesterday to discuss the situation, including the ultimatum set forth by the athletes in December. By the end of the meeting it was clear that the student athletes and the administration did not see eye-to-eye, and no agreement or understanding was reached.

“We were frustrated that the Athletic Directors didn’t state any clear game plan as to how to get the program back in a positive direction,” former player and junior Eric Hansen said.

The athletes did acknowledge the positives that came out of the meeting, however.

“[The administrators] seem to realize that we are serious about doing whatever it takes to improve the program,” Kantarelis said.

Hansen added, “I was encouraged that they clearly acknowledged our position and realized the need for further evaluation.”

Part of the former players’ concern is what they see as a lack of attention given to their coach evaluations over the past two years. All UR athletes are asked to fill out evaluations at the end of their respective seasons detailing the strengths and weaknesses of their head coaches.

“We regularly work with our staff to address concerns from students, and take very seriously our responsibility for evaluating coaches in a fair manner,” VanderZwaag said.

It was in these evaluations that the first complaints were brought up by the tennis players, and they were upset when they saw no positive change in the program, despite their efforts.

“We were frustrated and concerned that they weren’t taking our evaluations seriously, and it was clear that the program was not progressing, but rather declining,” Hansen said. “After the meeting in the spring our most pressing concerns were not addressed, and we didn’t feel confident that they would be addressed in the future.”

The decision to quit has already had some important ramifications for the tennis team. The tryouts were held earlier last week to fill the roster in time for the spring season.

According to Khvalina, the team has been filled and is ready for their first match.

“We had our first practice of the spring earlier today and started training with the present team made up of both returning and new players,” Khvalina said. “We are getting ready for our first spring match vs. Lemoyne on Feb. 18.”

The tennis team has also decided not to travel to California for their annual spring break trip this season. In past years, the team has played four or five matches against opponents from across the country on the trip.

While the players who are leaving feel their decision is for the best, they understand that it affects more than just the team.

“We deeply regret that we will not be able to represent our university and the student body this spring,” Hansen said. “Resigning from the team was the last thing we wanted to do. While we made every attempt to exhaust all of the other options, it was clear that positive changes would not be made under the current conditions. It is our hope that the most serious concerns are finally addressed so that the program can begin to move forward.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.

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