By Andy Landolfi, QBSN Staff Writer
There’s an old saying that opposites attract. If you said that to some former players of the men’s and women’s Quinnipiac tennis teams, however, they may politely disagree.
As head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, Mike Quitko has seen at least four relationships form that have led to marriages between players on his teams. Among the relationships that formed, two of them have involved current assistant coaches, Nicholas Wormley and Ryan Bean, who both found their wife and fiancé while playing under Quitko.
Other marriages include former players T.W. Goodwin and Liz Axler, and former player Jess Ucello and former team trainer Pete Asadourian.
The closeness of the men’s and women’s teams started, Quitko believes, when the NCAA realigned the seasonal schedules, which allowed both teams to play their seasons at the same time.
This change allowed for one weekly practice that the teams would have together. It is something that Quitko thinks has been helpful to both the men’s and women’s players.
“One of the things I like about it is that the men hit harder in most cases, but they lack consistency,” Quitko said. “The women have consistency, but lack power.”
These practices also gave players a chance to get to know each other.
“So when they hit together, and of course that’s how they get to know each other better,” Quitko said. “‘Do you want to play a little tennis with me?’ or ‘Do you want to hit a few balls with me?’ and then they get to know each other and decide, well that’s their business at that point.”
Traveling to and from matches was also a time when players from both teams could interact with one another.
“It’s almost like we travel with dates. There are usually, and we try to keep the same amount of men as we keep the same amount of women, and it looks like when we get off the bus, that’s exactly what’s happening,” Quitko said.
It was important that the teams traveled together, Bean said.
“We play a good number of matches together so to have a sport that usually garners a smaller audience, it’s nice to be able to bring 20 plus players in union to cheer and support each other,” Bean said.
After the matches, however, at the team dinner is when the teams really got to spend time together.
“Our team dinners occur after every away match,” Bean said. “It allows for our players to decompress after a good win or a tough loss. The best thing is that tennis is rarely the topic at the table. It’s because of this that everyone’s relationships grow.”
While playing under Quitko, Bean met his soon-to-be bride Kimberly Piazza. The two met at the first team meeting of the year with Quitko, when Bean was a junior and Piazza was a freshman. They soon became best friends.
“As we continued through the program and the season our relationship began to evolve and we haven’t looked back since,” Bean said. “I strongly believe that if it weren’t for Q’s family atmosphere, we might never have been as close as we were during our college experience.”
The couple is expecting their first child in July.
“Needless to say we are more than happy,” Bean said.
The team’s other assistant coach, Wormley, and his wife, former player Michelle Nagle, are expecting their second child.
For all the benefits that come from relationships between players on the teams, Quitko knows exactly what to do when problems do begin to occur.
“When they break up,” Quitko said. “I put a bandaid on the wound.”