The Cardinals believe their big match experience last season will translate into another successful fall

After a handful of tough 5-4 losses at the hands of NESCAC competition eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention in the spring, the men’s tennis team will look to bounce back with a strong fall season.

Lead by All-Americans Michael Liu ’17 and Stephen Chen ’18, the Cardinals will aim to make a strong push at a NESCAC playoff position and NCAA tournament spot in the 2015-2016 season.

At the Cardinals’ number-one spot, Liu posted a solid 8-6 record and was selected to play in the NCAA Division III tournament. He was also a first-team all NESCAC selection. He believes his experiences last year at the NCAA tournament will help him progress against top-level talent.

“The NCAA tournament really showed me the parity between the top ranked men in Division III and our entire team,” Liu said. “I think that this realization will motivate us to elevate our games to new heights.”

Chen played second singles for the Birds, posted a 10-4 singles record in 2015, and represented New England at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) championships last fall. He earned a spot on the second-team all NESCAC team for his accomplishments. Both look to build on impressive seasons this fall.

In the spring, Wesleyan started numerous underclassmen in doubles and singles. The experience gained from playing top-level NCAA talent last year should contribute to a successful 2015-2016 campaign.

“Our experiences last year helped us pinpoint various flaws in our games,” Liu said. “I can tell from our practices that everyone has improved both their strengths and weaknesses over the summer, which I’m sure will help our results in the long run. The extra matches under our belts has also helped develop our mental toughness.”

The Cardinals will return a number of starters from last year, including Jake Roberts ’17, Cam Daniels ’18, Win Smith ’18, and Druv Yadav ’18, who posted a team best 10-3 singles record last year.

Joachim Samson ’19 will add to the returning talent, and will likely contribute immediately to the team’s success.

“He has a huge game, which we’ll need in order to compete with the top tier teams,” Liu said.

The Cardinals also return Sam Rudovsky ’16, Zacho Brint ’16, Michael King ’16, Greg Lyon ’17, and Cameron Hicks ’17, all of whom saw action at either singles or doubles last year.

While the spring season features team events, the fall season focuses on individual play, so the Cardinals will be competing in a handful of single-elimination tournaments. But the team will be facing Stevens Institute of Technology on Sept. 20, which will foreshadow the spring season.

Despite a slew of talented and deep NESCAC squads, the Cardinals remain incredibly optimistic about the upcoming season after finishing last season ranked 23rd nationally by the ITA. At the end of the 2015 season, the NESCAC had three teams in the top-ten national ranking and eight in the top 25.

The 2015 spring season also marked the first time in program history that Wesleyan was ranked among the nation’s top 20 teams.

The first tournament the Cardinals will compete in this season, after their match with Stevens, is the ITA regional tournament at Williams College on September 25-27. It features teams from all over New England, including many NESCAC squads. The single-elimination tournament will serve as a first look at the talented 2015-2016 Cardinals team.

“The feel and team chemistry early in practices gives me the feeling that this will be one of the best seasons in recent Cards tennis history,” said Hicks. “The ITA tournament and the Stevens match will showcase the hard work we have put in this fall.”

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