Women's Tennis Team Taking "Flight" at UD

Oct 1, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa - The University of Dubuque women’s tennis team reached a new level of competition in fall 2016. The Spartans began the season with the largest women’s team the school has ever had. The increased number of student-athletes has been a winning recipe for success for head coach Claudio Giraldi (C’11, MBA’13, MAC ‘17).

Giraldi’s journey started halfway around the world in Mons, Belgium. A high school visit from Bob Broshous, the University’s Dean of Admissions, was his first connection to the University of Dubuque. In high school, Giraldi played tennis in Santa Marinella, Italy with coach Carlo Oroni and at SHAPE American High School. Giraldi, a native of Rome, Italy, was the 2005 Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) European Champion and runner-up in 2006 in tennis. He was a varsity soccer player and was a member of the 2006 DoDDS European Soccer Championship Team. He was also named an All-Europe and All-Conference soccer team honoree at SHAPE American High School.

The Spartans had just hired its first full-time men’s and women’s tennis coach and it was showing dividends. A small squad increased to double digits for the first time. Giraldi was one of those recruits and won the “B Flight” singles as a first-year student-athlete for the Spartans. He finished as a four-year letterwinner from 2007-2011 and enjoyed the University so much, he continued his studies and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2013.

An opening for a new coach opened the door for Giraldi to return. Giraldi was named the head coach for the women’s and men’s programs in 2013. He coached the Spartans men’s team to the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) Tournament in 2015. This fall he accomplished what no other coach has been able to do, he finished third in the conference and qualified the women’s team to it’s first ever IIAC Tournament. Despite the success in 2016, it didn’t stop there.

The women’s team claimed it’s first “A Flight” singles championship when junior Arantxa Martinez (San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Instituto Technologico y de Estudios Superi HS) won #1 singles after defeating Hailey Resnick of Coe College in straight sets in the championship 6-0, 6-3. She previously placed runner-up twice in the championship finals of “A Flight” singles. Teammate Ines Albino (Fr., Altamonte Springs, Fla., Lyman HS) claimed the “B Flight” singles championship after beating Emma Cooke of Loras College in the championship 2-6, 6-3, (10-1 tie break).

Martinez and Albino would team up to play together for the first time in doubles play and the two captured the “A Flight” doubles championship over Luther College’s Jackie Cychosz/Britta Pressler by an 8-5 score.

Martinez now holds the women’s all-time record for wins in singles and doubles play:

Martinez 2016-17: 15-0 in #1 singles/10-4 at #1 doubles
Martinez 2015-16: 15-3 in #1 singles/9-6 at #1 doubles
Martinez 2014-15: 16-1 in #1 singles/12-5 at #1 doubles

Being thousands of miles away from home for the first time could stress out most incoming new students, but not Martinez who adjusted rather quickly to the University of Dubuque campus.

“Coach Giraldi contacted me through a recruiting page and he was the one who brought me here,” Martinez said. “What helped me the most was the team, I wasn’t completely alone and I had a small group of teammates to rely on. The team was nice with me especially the captain who helped me through the first season.”

Martinez continued, “My freshman and sophomore years went pretty smooth, both of them gave me strength and made me confident I could win this time at the IIAC Tournament. I forgot about everything and tried to get the matches done quickly. If I start thinking about the match and being nervous, then it goes bad.”

At the IIAC Tournament, Martinez’s usual double partner was unable to play and teammate Ines Albino filled the void.

“In doubles, the beginning was rough because it was not my usual partner,” Martinez said. “It was scary as I hadn’t played with Ines, but she’s a good player and confident about what she’s doing. Ines was a great asset in doubles as it was a good match against Coe and that match helped get us through to the finals for the championship. The team is close, we have a tight team considering that we have differing personalities and are all from various parts of the country. It’s a good thing and you feel at home, it does become like your second home.”

This season, Martinez became the Spartans all-time singles and doubles winner. She is sure to call and share the success with her proud parents living in Mexico after every match and listen to their excitement of what she has accomplished at UD.

“Overall the season was great,” Albino said. “I finished 8-3 in singles and 7-4 in doubles and in the IIAC Tournament I was 4-0 in singles and 3-0 in doubles. I was excited for the conference tournament, being a freshman and having the chance to play in the B-flight for singles and in the A-flight for doubles was something I was grateful for. Being able to play doubles with Arantxa was learning experience since I am a freshman, but being able to win with her was amazing. She is a talented player and a great person on and away from the court. I learned a lot from her. Overall it was a learning experience for me as a freshman of what to expect next year and a way to find out what things I need to improve in my game. I am grateful for the coaches for giving me an opportunity to be apart of a great team."

Giraldi credits two former players who worked countless hours along with obtaining their master’s degrees at UD. Dishon Deering (C’ 14, MAC’16) was added to the staff as a grad assistant in 2014. Nikolay Gospodinov (C’15) volunteered his time after a successful Spartan career and has strung more rackets for student-athletes than anyone in the Spartans history, according to Giraldi.

“I am extremely proud of all our girls for the season we have just completed. They have put a lot of work in starting with the right attitude during pre-season. They have gained a good understanding of the importance of proper conditioning and practice discipline as well as working together as a team. Reaching the third place during regular season is definitely a great accomplishment they deserve and we are looking to do well at the team tournament in the spring,” Giraldi said. “Looking at next year, we have great potential and while we develop the current players, we are looking to bring in a couple more quality recruits to aim at winning the conference title”.

Martinez added, “There’s a little pressure now, but I want to be undefeated next year. You never know as there will be new players and new experiences every year in different matches. Our team will need to believe in themselves as they are good players. It’s not about playing hard, but more about playing smart on the court to be successful among the great teams in the Iowa Conference. What I will share with the new student-athletes is to keep up on their studies, listen to the coach, and trust in yourself.”

The Spartan tennis student-athletes have spent many summers at the Stanford University Nike Summer Camp where they have a chance to work on their game while working with youths learning and advancing their play in tennis. Stanford tennis is steeped in pride and tradition celebrated their 46th year of offering camps in 2016. One of the finest tennis facilities in the country, the Taube Tennis Stadium features 17 courts with spectator viewing and championship lighting.

“I first had the opportunity to work at the Stanford summer tennis camp right after my freshman year thanks to then UD tennis coach Billy Porter (C’05)” said Giraldi. “Since then I went back for more summers and as I saw the value in the experience, I have been encouraging our best players to do the same. Most recently among those who experienced the camps were Martinez and Marissa Joers on the women’s team.”