Last year, the men’s tennis team endured a difficult finish, barely missing the NESCAC Championships when it finished in seventh place with a 7−8 record (3−5 NESCAC). This year, the Jumbos are determined to get over the hump and make it to the postseason with the help of some young talent and a spring break training trip.
“Our goal remains the same, and that’s to get to the NESCAC tournament, which means finishing in the top six,” senior co−captain Paul Kohnstamm said. “In addition to that, we would like to get a national ranking. My first three seasons, we had a national ranking at some point. Last year, we fell out so we want to get back into the top 30 [national rankings].”
The Jumbos will be under new leadership this season, as interim coach Jim Watson, who coached the team from 1981−2004, takes back the reins from Doug Eng, who was at the helm for the last five seasons.
Watson’s coaching style has already rubbed off on the team.
“We have a lot of respect for Coach Watson,” junior co−captain Morrie Bossen said. “I feel like we are working really hard in practice under him, and hopefully that hard work can translate to greater match success than we have had in the past few years.”
After losing last year’s top players Jake Fountain (LA ’10) and Andrew Rosen (LA ’10), Tufts will rely on some new freshman talent, which was on display during the short fall season when the team won all four of its matches.
These young players include freshmen Austin Blau and Pat Monaghan, who both played their way onto the starting singles ladder in the fall.
“We think that Pat Monaghan and Austin Blau are going to step right in and be contributing starters,” Kohnstamm said. “Of the top seven singles players, six are freshmen, sophomores or juniors — we definitely have a young team.”
Even with the loss of Fountain and Rosen, the team boasts many returning starters who have improved with the extra year of seasoning, such as standout sophomore Andrew Lutz. Lutz last year played at the No. 6 position, but this fall showed his potential playing at No. 1 singles. At the ITA Div. III Regional Championships, he defeated MIT’s No. 1 singles player, sophomore Larry Pang.
In doubles, junior Kai Victoria will be paired with Lutz at the No. 1 slot. In the other doubles spots, Kohnstamm will team up with Monaghan, while the final doubles spot will either be sophomore Ben Barad and junior Sam Laber or Bossen and sophomore Mark Westerfield.
During spring break, the team will take a training trip to Miami. The Jumbos will play matches against Div. II national champions Barry University, Palm Beach Atlantic and the University of St. Thomas. The NESCAC schedule will start up Mar. 31 on the road at Conn. College, and the team’s first conference home game will be a toughie — an April 17 matchup with perennial power Amherst.
“The spring break trip prepares [us] for the rigors of the season in April,” Bossen said. “We are going to be practicing the days we don’t have matches, so it’s a good prep for the season because when we get back to Tufts … we play the rest of our matches in the span of one month.”