Sorkin seizes New England singles title to lead men’s tennis at Middlebury

Junior Jason Scanlon returns a shot in Tufts' 8–1 loss to Bowdoin at the Voute Tennis Courts on April 28. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Jumbos continued their stellar fall season at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) New England Championships in Vermont, as sixth-seeded sophomore Boris Sorkin broke past senior co-captain Jerry Jiang of the Bowdoin Polar Bears 6–4, 3–6, 6–3 to win the competition’s singles title.

With a singles victory at the Middlebury Invitational two weeks ago, Sorkin has reeled off an undefeated 10–0 record in singles play to start his fall season.

On his way to the title this weekend, Sorkin prevailed in a tight three-set battle against Wesleyan sophomore Adrian Roji in the second round, 7–5, 2–6, 10–5. The Saint Petersburg, Russia native continued his run of good form by defeating two Middlebury Panthers in first-year Stanley Morris in the Round of 16, 6–3, 6–2, before upsetting third-seeded senior co-captain Noah Farrell in the quarterfinals, 6–3, 7–5. Sorkin then rallied back from a set down in the semifinals to upset second-seeded Sean Wei of Amherst, 1–6, 6–2, 6–1.

“I’m really happy with the win,” Sorkin said. “I still can’t believe I won. I really liked the way I played throughout the whole tournament. I had great support from all the guys from the team who were there, which helped a lot, especially in the semis against Sean Wei. Their cheering helped me relax after losing the first set.”

Coach Karl Gregor attributed Sorkin’s success to his impressive work ethic.

“He deserved it,” Gregor said. “He puts in a tremendous amount of work and is continually following it up. It was great to see his reward when it was all said and done. The level of tennis is some of the highest I’ve ever witnessed [in Div. III]. It was just as good as you would see at an NCAA final.”

With just one senior on the team in co-captain Ross Kamin, the Jumbos are a young squad consisting mostly of first-years and sophomores. Of the six Jumbos that competed in the tournament, four were in that group. With few returning players, Gregor explained that there is a lot to figure out with the team’s lineup from week to week.

“There’s still quite a few holes we need to fill,” Gregor said. “Doubles and the middle of the lineup is unclear. In the fall, it’s not a huge deal, but I’d like to see more people step. [Sorkin] fired up a lot of guys now. They’ve started thinking if he can do it, we can do it, so let’s put our heads down together.”

Sophomore Carl-Herman Grant defeated Bowdoin junior Justin Patel 6–3, 6–3 before losing to fifth-seeded sophomore Kevin Ma of Amherst in the second round, 6–0, 6–0.

The rest of the Jumbos fell in the opening round, as first-year Isaac Gorelik was dismissed by eighth-seeded sophomore Arturo Kam of Williams in a tight two-set battle, 7–5, 6–4, while junior Ben Biswas lost to seventh-seeded senior co-captain Tyler Barr of MIT, 6–2, 6–4.

In doubles, the Jumbos’ duo of unseeded junior Nathan Niemiec and first-year Paris Pentousis advanced to the Round of 16 with an 8–4 win over senior co-captain Josh Quijano and first-year Pieter Wernink of the Bates Bobcats. In the next round, Niemiec and Pentousis were defeated by the eventual champions, fourth-seeded Jiang and sophomore Justin Wang of Bowdoin, 8–3.

Pentousis, a native of Greece, was thrilled to get a win in his first match as a Jumbo.

“I was really happy,” Pentousis said. “My first match being part of the Tufts tennis team, [I’m] proud to be a Jumbo. I’m looking forward to a lot more matches with the guys and my doubles partner, Nathan [Niemiec].”

Niemiec was also excited to get the win.

“It’s so great,” Niemiec said. “We’ve been working a lot of doubles in practice, [so] it’s great to be able to put it in action. The second match gave us an opportunity of what to work on next.”

On the other side of the draw, unseeded Grant and Sorkin lost to the eventual finalists, third-seeded senior co-captain Lubomir Cuba and sophomore Nate Eazor of Middlebury in the first round, 8–3.

Gregor thought the team as a whole performed well, given the difficult matches that it drew.

“We didn’t get particularly good draws,” Gregor said. “Ben played a seed first round. Isaac also played a seed. Carl had a good win, but then ran into another seed. Tough draw. This tournament is so stacked with talent. We didn’t get any breaks. In doubles, we lost to the two teams that got to the finals, so again, tough draws.”

Going into the rest of the fall season, Gregor stressed the team’s focus on doubles, as well as the importance of maintaining focus.

“With doubles, in general, we aren’t showing as much strength. I hope we can make more improvements there,” he said. “In singles, I’d like to maintain our level. Historically, we’ve had a hiccup in the last two events. Sometimes the guys don’t keep their focus, so [we] want to stress to the guys to push through.”

Tufts will travel to Bates for the Wallach Invitational on Oct. 6–7.