Growing up on a naval base in the small town of Rota on the southern coast of Spain, located just 30 minutes from Cadiz, UMass senior Chantal Swiszcz, probably never thought she’d end up playing college tennis in Amherst, Massachusetts, a rural town in Western Mass.’s Pioneer Valley.
For Chantal’s father, however, the thought of his daughter playing Division I tennis for his hometown Minutemen, represented something much more.
Stanley Swiszcz grew up in Chicopee, Mass., just south of Amherst after his family had moved to America during the Holocaust in the mid-1940s. Mr. Swiszcz thought that playing college tennis in the states signified a tremendous opportunity for his daughter, and subsequently set out on a relentless effort to get his daughter recruited by UMass coach, Judy Dixon.
“Her father chased me around from match-to-match when Chantal was in high school in Spain, and kept telling me that he had a daughter who would like to come to UMass,” said Dixon.
There was, however, a slight problem. Chantal was not nationally ranked in her native country, nor had she had any prior tournament experience, nor even a tennis record.
“She was going to be a hard sell to any program because she didn’t have a background that we could sort of look at,” added Dixon.
But Mr. Swiszcz was unrelenting. He followed Dixon’s Minutewomen wherever they had a match. No matter if the match was just a few towns over in Amherst, or a two-hour drive to Boston University, Stanley was there.
Finally, his hard work paid off. He told Coach Dixon that Chantal was moving back to America, making her a possible in-state student at UMass. This meant that Dixon could save nearly $10,000 by offering a full scholarship to Chantal because her family would be living in Massachusetts.
Eventually, Dixon looked over the recruiting tape that Chantal and her father had made and decided to offer the young woman from Rota, a full tennis scholarship.
“I honestly had no clue what college athletics was about because they don’t exist at universities in Spain,” said Chantal, “but my dad really wanted me to experience college tennis because he thought it would be a great life experience, so I took his word for it and accepted the scholarship since I really love the sport.”
Chantal’s career at UMass has been nothing short of amazing. The senior has compiled a 56-27 record with junior doubles partner, Yuliana Motyl, while netting a 17-4 record this past spring.
“She is probably the finest doubles player that we’ve had in all my 20 years that I’ve been coaching here,” said Dixon.
After missing her freshman year due to injuries, Chantal’s win-total puts her at No.7 on the all-time win’s list for UMass women’s tennis, a remarkable accomplishment considering she’s only played three seasons in Amherst.
Looking to the future, Chantal is still undecided on her plans for after college. While her fallback plan is to live in Boston for a year, Chantal hopes to attend graduate school back in Spain, mainly located in the areas of Madrid, Barcelona, or Sevilla, to study immunology.
Regardless of what she decides, Chantal is confident that her experiences in Amherst and the relationships that she’s created along the way will help mold a successful future.
“I don’t think I could have done it without Yuli and coach Dixon,” said Swiszcz. “Yuli and I always give each other all that we have, while coach makes sure you never give up, and has definitely made me not only a good player, but a good person.”