WATERVILLE — Colby College men’s tennis coach Doanh Wang was talking about his recruitment of freshmen Carl Reid and Vlad Murad, who just happen to be 1-2 in his singles lineup with four losses between them.
Wang reached out to Reid first, and Murad reached out to Wang first. Wang said there’s then a normal process of due diligence, where he watches video and tries to learn about a player’s personality through communication.
“Sometimes there’s a little bit of luck, too,” Wang said. “And we got a little lucky.”
Whether it was luck, skill or foresight — or some combination of the three — Wang looks like the most brilliant recruiter around. Reid is 12-1 in singles play, including an 12-0 mark at No. 1 singles. Murad’s singles record is 10-3. That’s a combined record of 22-4 for a pair of freshmen, while playing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The NESCAC has five of the top six ranked teams in the Northeast region in Division III.
“I think my first season (at Colby) was the fall of 2007,” Wang said. “I had some really special players then, but they weren’t first-years. Certainly, Vlad and Carl are by far the most impactful first-years that I’ve had in my time here. NESCAC’s a Division III powerhouse in tennis.”
In the latest NCAA Division III rankings, Reid is fifth individually in the Northeast and Reid and Murad are third as a doubles team.
“I think tennis players are always trying to be the top dog,” Wang said. “I think with these two guys, they’re definitely pushing each other. I think they recognize that they’re both very good players. They respect each other’s abilities. But I think they also have a very mature attitude that they’re here, and they’re going to help the team do the best that we possibly can this year.”
Reid grew up in the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, Mass., while Murad is from Bacau, Romania. Reid was a standout in an area loaded with strong players, but didn’t consider a school like Colby until later in high school.
“My dream, actually, from when I was 12, was to play Division I,” Reid said. “Then I hit a point when I was about 16-17, where I loved tennis, but I knew it wasn’t going to be my life. It wasn’t going to be my career. So I’ve heard a lot about the NESCAC being one of the best conferences in the country, so I really set my sights on maybe going to one of these schools. It’s almost as good as playing in a Division I league, but without as much of the time commitment.”
Murad, meanwhile, said “it was kind of a rash decision” for him to come to Maine from Romania.
“I would lie if I would say it was an organized decision,” Murad said. “I didn’t fall madly in love with Colby. I just looked for a lot of small colleges where you’re not just a name on a list. Then I reduced my search to colleges that are good at tennis. It’s very good. I love it. There are a lot of international students here. I feel that, compared to other colleges, the international community’s a lot more united.”
After playing No. 1 singles throughout high school, Reid expected to play No. 2 at Colby behind senior captain and returning No. 1 singles player Jason Ottomano. But when Ottomano was injured early in the season, Reid ended up filling that spot.
Murad, unsurprisingly, hadn’t heard much about the strength of NESCAC teams before coming to Colby.
“To be honest, I expected it to be a lot easier,” Murad said. “I was pretty good in Romania. I was constantly in the top 10, top 5 players. I was expecting coming here and winning pretty easily. But as it turned out, it’s not even close to what I thought it would be. The players are very good.”
Also unsurprisingly, Wang hadn’t seen Murad play tennis until he came to Colby, except on video.
“From the video, I knew he was going to be able to do some really good stuff for us,” Wang said. “One of the things that I look for is someone who’s coachable, and it’s hard to tell in a video. But one of the things that we can tell is, we can’t coach effort, and watching him in his video, you could see that he was going to bring that enthusiasm and the love to be on the court, and that’s half the battle.
“Same thing with Carl. I knew that he was very excited about tennis. Sometimes, you have somebody who’s super-talented, and doesn’t put in that effort. It’s a waste of time. These are two guys who you feel like, â€˜OK, I don’t have to coach that part of them.’ It’s about making them to be better young men — off the court, on the court.”
Wang said that effort even shows in practice, which is a true testament to their love of tennis.
“If we’re doing a hundred-ball drill, that 100th ball is going to be better than the 99th ball,” Wang said, “and the 99th ball is going to be better than the 98th ball.”
Wang said both Murad and Reid are good ball-strikers. Murad said he’s aggressive, and admits to a tendency to become angry at himself on the court, but says he can usually channel that energy into something positive. Reid, who was also recruited to play soccer at Colby, uses the endurance he got as an outside midfielder, and tries to take advantage of his athleticism whenever possible. He likes to describe his style as that of an “aggressive counter-puncher.”
“Carl’s very athletic, good athlete, good mover,” Wang said. “He could probably stay out there all day. Vlad has a real good court sense — knows when to attack, knows when he needs to pull back a little bit. He understands what’s coming at him, and how to give it back. I think they’re both very good at hating to lose more than they love winning.”
Murad has one of the highest grade-point averages on the team, and Reid will be a community advisor at Colby next year. If you told Wang he’d get one freshmen like that, he would have been elated.
“When they’re good, and they’re good young men, and they’ve got focus off the court and doing what they need to do on campus, be good leaders off the court,” Wang said, “those are all the things that make the pieces a lot easier to fit.”