A Player’s Coach

October 9, 2010 02:08 PM
Barbara Cilli in action at the 4.5 Adult Nationals.
Barbara Cilli hits an overhead during her match at the 4.5 Adult Nationals.
By Granger Huntress
Division I women’s coach testing her own skills at national championships

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Over the past 12 years, as the Bryant University Women’s Tennis coach, Barbara Cilli has missed only one of her team’s dual matches – due to a death in the family. Saturday, Cilli will miss another, but this time it will be because she will be playing at the 2010 USTA League 4.5 National Championships being held at the Reffkin Tennis Center.

When Cilli takes the court in her morning doubles match, she will have a hard time not having her thoughts to "her girls" back in Smithfield, R.I., who will be facing Monmouth College at the same time.

"Believe me, I have butterflies," says Cilli. "I wish I was there. (Friday) I sent an e-mail to the girls with all of the bullet points of what to keep in mind."

Living in Rhode Island, Cilli plays for the USTA New England team out of Natick, Mass.

"I was actually supposed to come about seven years ago," explains Cilli, "but I hurt my back the week of the tournament and couldn’t even get on the plane. There was no way I was going to miss it this time."

Cilli will also be able to do a little recruiting while in Tucson and visit with a player who may possibly head east to play for the Bulldogs.

"She reached out to me and I realized she was from Arizona," says Cilli. "I looked it up, and she was from Tucson, so I immediately e-mailed her and asked if we could meet, even if it was just for five minutes. She was like ‘great.’"

One of the barriers Cilli faces is the lack of funding of scholarships. Women’s Division I tennis is allowed seven fully funded scholarships, however, Cilli and Bryant only have about two to work with.

"We have a ways to go," Cilli admits. "We are in year three of the transition to Division I, but we are playing a full Division I schedule. We take our knocks, but are getting better."