Kercheval taking on tennis director challenges

Dillan Schorfheide, Women's Tennis Reporter

Sam Kercheval has twice now stepped in to help coach the women’s tennis team, both times after the team’s coach left, but he likes the challenge it presents him to manage both.

Kercheval, the interim director of tennis, has been the coach of the men’s tennis team at Eastern since being named to the position in August 2015. His first experience with helping the women’s team came in the fall season of 2017.

Emily Wang was named as the head coach the same time as Kercheval, but she was announced as the head coach of the New Mexico State women’s tennis team on Aug. 4, 2017.

“When she first left, the plan was to obviously hire a new coach right away,” Kercheval said. “So I wasn’t actually going to be doing anything with the women’s team, other than what I normally do which is be cordial and help where needed.”

The women’s team then got a head coach when Lois Alexis was announced as the coach on Nov. 7, 2017, but before she got the chance to actually coach the team for any matches this spring season, it was announced on Jan. 17 that she took a leave of absence to finalize a new work visa.

Associate athletic director Rich Moser said Alexis is still finalizing her work visa.

Since Alexis’ leave of absence, Kercheval said he has been balancing running practices for both teams and going to as many matches as possible for both teams. He has also been managing recruitment for the women’s team.

“For me, it’s been a good learning experience,” he said. “Figuring out how to balance even more— I think I’m pretty organized and I communicate well and when you add another nine players and another system, it’s forced me to look at things differently and be better. So I think it’s been a good challenge for me.”

But the hardest thing for Kercheval to do was be on the court with both teams.

“As a coach, I love to be on the court, that’s where we make our players better from a technical and strategic standpoint,” he said. “There are so many hours I can be out there between what I’m physically capable of and just scheduling when are our practice slots in the field house, what’s the weather like outside, when are they out of class.”

Kercheval said since then, he believes the players have done a remarkable job handling the situation. He added that the players like him for the most part and that the team is in a “good spot.”

And much to Kercheval’s delight, Kevin Hussey, former Charleston High School tennis coach, has helped out with the women’s team.

“I can’t say enough about how much Kevin has helped me,” Kercheval said. “I didn’t know really anything about his background, didn’t know what he knew, but he has come in and has great passion for coaching and he’s extremely positive.”

Although Kercheval did not know Hussey too well, he had met him before when Hussey would come to outdoor practices during bike rides. Kercheval would run into him when Hussey was teaching in the field house.

Kercheval said the program would not have the success it has had without Hussey, who has coached matches and even driven the players to matches. Kercheval believes the players love Hussey and have great respect for the job he has done for the program.

As far as the possibility of Alexis returning goes, Kercheval does not have a timetable of a possible return.

The women’s team will get its second chance to have its first home match at the Darling Courts Friday, where the Panthers are scheduled to host Belmont and Tennessee State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]