By William Qualkinbush
CLEMSON — Men’s tennis coach Chuck McCuen made it a point this season to challenge his team with a rigorous schedule and numerous
individual challenges. While the Tigers fell short of reaching the NCAA Tournament, there were tangible signs that McCuen’s strategy helped to grow the program in important ways.
“We were at that point in the process of the team’s development that they had to start seeing those highly-ranked teams day in and day out in order to know what to aspire to,” he said. “I think we did a good job with that.”
Clemson finished seventh in the ACC this season, which is an improvement from the past few seasons. In addition, there were a number of 4-3
matches that did not go in the Tigers’ favor. The final match of the season, a close loss to Wake Forest, was one of those back-and-forth affairs.
In the aftermath, McCuen said his team did not even talk for 24 hours. The sting of defeat has begun to resonate throughout the program, and
McCuen knows what it will take for his team to avoid such an empty feeling in the future.
“It should be a huge motivator for them,” he said. “We have to work a little harder in the summer. We have to condition a little bit harder
and work on a few more skills. We’re a very good team who’s literally points away from being a top 25 program.”
Among the players who rose to the occasion this season was junior Yannick Maden, who was recently named to the All-ACC Team. McCuen says
that Maden’s impact on the program can certainly be measured in his on-the-court play, but the leadership he provided was also critical to the
team’s growth this season.
“Tons of credit go to him,” McCuen said. “He’s such a great player, both on and off the court. He was one of our co-captains, and he did such a great job in that role also.”
Although the Clemson men’s tennis program is not where the coaching staff and the student-athletes would like for it to be, there is a buzz around what is happening in Tigertown.
McCuen is encouraged by the way that more and more elite recruits have responded to his phone calls over the past couple of years, and he says that recent success enjoyed by individuals like Maden—as well as better results experienced by the collective unit—have only increased interest in the Tigers.
As the talent continues to stockpile for McCuen, the program continues to move forward. With a handful of players already committed to
sticking around for summer school and training on campus, the groundwork has been laid to continue the program’s ascent next season. McCuen hopes that the combination of talent and determination will ultimately result in bigger and better things for the Tigers.
“This team cares deeply about winning and losing and doing the right things and competing at the highest level,” he said. “They are going
to do all of the extra things to get to the next level.”