The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Column: DePaul women’s tennis coach Marisa Arce highlights the importance of team culture

Jaydi Vasquez
DePaul head coach Marisa Arce (center) speaks to her team after a loss to Xavier April 13, 2024, at XS Tennis Village in Chicago. DePaul lost the match 0-4 but entered the Big East Tournament as the No. 2 seed, with Xavier sitting at No. 1 in the conference.

Editor’s Note: The writer of this story is a member of the tennis team. The DePaulia acknowledged this may be perceived as a potential conflict of interest, therefore this story is duly marked as a column.

DePaul women’s tennis head coach Marisa Arce has always gone the extra mile to inspire her team.

While she wants her players to succeed on the court, she also does her best to prepare them for life outside of tennis.

One way that she does this is through her pursuit of a team culture. Arce makes sure to check in with her players regularly at “coffee with the coach” meetings, ensures that everyone meets her hunger and humility standards, and sets an example with her daily work ethic and support.

Arce starts her day at 5 a.m., and she can often be seen working out or checking emails while the team lifts.

She also introduces her players to positive mindset books, such as “The Energy Bus and The Carpenter” by Jon Gordon, and the team reads a chapter from “Becoming a Great Team Player” by Allistair McCaw before every practice.

DePaul head coach Marisa Arce looks on during DePaul’s match with Xavier on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at XS Tennis Village in Chicago. DePaul’s loss snapped a six-match winning streak that lasted more than one month.
Photo by Jaydi Vasquez

Arce draws upon her own college experience for inspiration.

She played Division 1 college tennis for the University of Illinois from 2007 to 2012, where she garnered an 84-64 win-loss record in singles and an 87-60 doubles record.

Arce graduated ranked second all-time in Illinois women’s tennis doubles wins and sixth in singles wins. She also won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award in 2012.

However, great success on the tennis court was not the only thing Arce took away from her time there. It was at Illinois that she first realized her dream of becoming a college tennis coach.

“I first wanted to become a college tennis coach because my coaches had such an impact on me that I wanted to have that impact on other people,” Arce said. “It just made such a difference in my life, and I couldn’t imagine my life without college tennis.”

Arce has been the head coach of the DePaul women’s tennis program since the fall of 2019, and she has already influenced her students.

DePaul senior Greta Carbone in her match against Xavier on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at XS Tennis Village in Chicago. DePaul’s overall record for the season as of April 13 is 15-7.
Photo by Jaydi Vasquez

Greta Carbone, a senior from Italy, has only positive things to say about Arce, whose nickname is Mish.

“Mish makes sure that everybody feels loved,” said Carbone. “She is a very good role model, and we all look up to her, both on and off the court.”

While tennis is generally an individual sport, college tennis matches are played as part of a team.

“I love the team aspect of it and the relationships that you build within the team,” Arce said. “To me it’s not as much about the tennis as about what you gain as a person and as a unit.”

Arce points to good recruiting as another important factor.

“Building a strong team culture starts with recruiting,” she said. “It is important that during the recruiting process, I’m clear about what it is that we’re all about at DePaul. By doing my due diligence, I make sure that any potential recruits have the character traits that fit our team culture, and I think that’s how we get the right people that want to do what we do every single day.”

Carbone agrees that recruiting plays a big role.

“I think that this team has a very good team culture because of the values that Mish holds in her recruiting process,” said Carbone. “She recruits people that value the same things, respect the team, and have a passion for our goals. Our team is so diverse, with many international players. Everyone, including Mish, tries to make sure that we are like a family, since we are so far away from our own.”

Jill Hollembeak, Executive Associate Athletics Director for Sports Administration and Senior Woman Administrator at DePaul, highlights the high standards Arce and her team hold.

“DePaul Women’s Tennis has a tradition of excellence on and off the court that is underscored by Coach Arce’s positive energy, superb leadership and holistic commitment to developing her team as students, athletes and people,” said Hollembeak. “Her passion for teaching and coaching tennis, as well as the life-skills learned through sport is exemplified in her players.”

DePaul head coach Marisa Arce gives a pep talk to graduate student Yuliya Kizelbasheva during a match against Xavier on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at XS Tennis Village in Chicago. DePaul lost to Xavier last Saturday.
Photo by Jaydi Vasquez

Arce values the importance of having fun and building good relationships with your teammates. Some of her favorite memories at DePaul have been spending time with the team outside the court.

For example, to celebrate last year’s senior day in April 2023, Arce and the team went for dinner at Belgrade Café, a Serbian restaurant in Chicago. The evening was spent reminiscing about the memories and accomplishments of the three seniors, and Arce gave a short speech to thank each of them personally.

“Tennis-wise, I would say beating St. John’s in the semi-finals of Big East two years ago and beating Iowa last year are some of my best memories,” Arce said. “But I feel like whether we won or lost those matches I would feel the same way right now. My favorite thing is the time that we spend together as a whole group.”

Although being a student-athlete can be challenging, Arce’s inspirational leadership has made the DePaul women’s tennis program the place to be.

“The team are all in and it makes it a fun and invigorating atmosphere,” Arce said. “When people want to work hard and be their best self on and off the court, it makes the hard work feel worth it.”

For Carbone, the fun team culture that Arce has built at DePaul has been life-changing.

“She has really helped to improve my mindset and positive thinking, and she has changed the way I approach every day,” Carbone said. “Mish changes the world one person at a time, and the lessons she teaches us are much more than tennis lessons.”

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