Merrill is a modest person who doesn’t strut and prefers to remain in the shadows.

She will, however, gladly give most of the credit to her players for the Ramblers’ prosperity in the Mountain Valley Conference.

“I like to think I do (have something to do with the turnaround), but I think I really would like to refer back to my players. My girls just really want to learn,” Merrill said. “They come to practice ready to go. They want to improve everyday. It takes the pressure off of me because they want to do well so it makes improving everyday so much easier because I just have a great group of girls.”

But Merrill also sees her role as kind of like a motivational speaker, hoping to inspire her players along the way. She figures if her athletes are taking care of business at practice, this gives her more time to prepare the Ramblers mentally.

“Over the past three seasons, we have improved our record to a 39-8 record,” Merrill said. “Four years ago, the team went 3-7, not even making the playoffs. Winthrop tennis has a strong tennis history, being the only team to beat a private school for the state championship. These girls have worked extremely hard to gain back the tradition Winthrop tennis has had in years past.”

Thanks to Winthrop’s perseverance, tenacity and success, the team’s numbers have grown and interest in the program has flourished.

“We are suddenly growing a program, and there are a lot of younger players from the middle school are showing interest,” Merrill added. “As a team, we have not been in the spotlight, but the work ethic and the turn around these girls have made to a program will have ripple effects for years to come. There is a lot more interest again in playing tennis as there hasn’t been in a few years. These girls have revitalized a program.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a player like Megan Chamberland on the team. The Ramblers’ No. 1 singles player and captain has compiled an impressive 20-4 record since her freshman year.

‘She is mentally tough,” Merrill said. “She is very good at assessing what her opponent brings and changing on the fly. She is savvy, consistent and she is a great leader for our team. She is a second-year captain and brings a different look.

“She is a great role mode for the girls. A lot of the girls want to emulate what she does.”

Chamberland has been playing since she was seven and spent most of her summers at tennis camps perfecting her game.

“I like it because it is more individual than some other sports, like I play field hockey, where you have more control,” Chamberland said. “As a freshman, I started out as second singles, which was a big adjustment for me. I just took one match at a time and tried to do my best that way. The next year I was a captain and became a first singles player (because of the loss of several seniors).”

Like her coach, Chamberland speaks for the rest of team when she says the Ramblers have high expectations for this season.

“We definitely want to make the MVCs and win it this time,” Chamberland said.

That’s not out of the question, with leaders like Merrill and Chamberland at the helm.

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