Joël Kusnierz has big shoes to fill after 16-year Rainbow Warrior head coach John Nelson retired in Fall 2019, but as a new season begins he already sees the 2020 vision for the program.
“The goal is to put the program on the map,” Kusnierz said. “We’ve worked really hard, especially the last couple years to bring the right people with the right mindset on the team and this is what I want to remember for this year — for them to really believe in themselves and to achieve the best possible level.”
Kusnierz took over the Rainbow Warrior tennis program after serving the past three seasons as the assistant coach to Nelson.
He brings a range of experience from being a developmental coach at the California Tennis Club in San Francisco, California from 2013-2017 and as an intern for the USTA in Northern California.
Kusnierz graduated from St. Mary’s College in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business and sports management in 2012.
Last year, Kusnierz helped coach eight players who earned multiple Big West Conference honors, including BWC Freshman of the Year Andre Ilagan.
Ilagan, who is now a sophomore, did not notice any changes as Kusnierz transitioned to head coach.
“I feel like both of them (Nelson and Kusnierz) are almost the exact same, which is great,” he said. “Both of them never gave pressure to us about winning, losing, but just always learning which improves our game to a whole other level and just also about life as well.”
Ilagan finished last season with a team-best 12-8 overall record. The 2018 Farrington High School graduate went 10-7 on the No. 1 court and 2-0 playing No. 2.
The Rainbow Warriors also return juniors Lucas Labrunie, Blaz Seric and sophomore Simao Telo Alves to help guide the team. This season’s schedule features five teams who finished ranked in 2019.
“Our philosophy is: To become the best, you need to learn from the best,” Kusnierz said. “And we choose to bring out here some of the best teams in the country so that we can see where we’re at and learn from them, and carry us through the season.”
Kusnierz said that he is excited for the team and that they have many options in regards to lineups and pairings.
“The rest of the team is very strong,” he said. “They’re very close to each other’s levels which is definitely exciting because they’re able to push each other during training, which is how great teams do it. That competitive spirit, everyday and among each other, is very crucial.”