The men’s tennis program is looking to have a breakout year in 2016. With many solid performances in both the spring and fall, the team is primed to have its best year in decades. The team finished the 2015 season ranked 23rd in the country, ninth in the Northeast, and eighth in the NESCAC. This statistic shows just how strong the conference is, as a top-ten team in the region could potentially not even qualify for the postseason. The Cardinals expect to jump up the standings, and the eighth-place finish leaves room for substantial improvement this coming season.
One of the key factors for the team is that none of the members from last year’s starting lineup matriculated. In addition, the Cardinals two All-Americans from last year, Steven Chen ’18 and Mike Liu ’17, are playing better than they ever have.
“I think that everyone gaining an extra year of match experience will help us do much better than last year,” Liu said.
After coming back from a semester abroad, Greg Lyon ’17, who has primarily helped the team in doubles, is excited to get back onto the court.
“Improvement is going to come this year because of everyone’s selflessness and positivity,” he said. “This year has a different feeling than other years and the team is significantly better than last year due to a shift in the mindset of everyone.”
While losing none of their starting lineup from last year, the Redbirds also gained two new additions that will bolster the already strong lineup. Tiago Eusebio ’18 is a spring transfer from Wake Forest University, which is currently the seventh ranked team in Division I men’s tennis. He was one of the top junior players in Brazil.
In addition, Joachim Samson ’19 has taken his talents from Manila, Philippines to Middletown for the next four years.
“Joachim and Tiago are amazing additions to the team,” Liu said. “They have great energy and possess games that can compete with the best players in the conference.”
The team’s schedule picks up quickly, as they have numerous important matches in the beginning of the season. The men are taking a trip to California for the first week of spring break to visit Claremont McKenna College, where they will play many pivotal matches.
“I think all of our California matches will be the most important of the year because it will set the tone for the season,” Lyon said.
Wesleyan will be facing off against Georgetown University, Pomona College, Redlands College, George Fox University, and Trinity University-TX.
“We’re all ready to compete against some of the best competition in the country out in California next week,” Liu said.
Pomona and Trinity University-TX are currently ranked higher than the Cardinals, at fourth and eighth in the country, respectively. Wesleyan is looking for revenge against Redlands, who the Cards lost to last year in a close 5-4 battle.
In the 2014-15 school year, the team went 6-8 overall with a NESCAC record of 3-5. They had two very close 5-4 losses to Bates and Trinity. In addition, the team fell to Williams 6-3.
The Cards are hoping that these close matches turn out in their favor this year.
“I’m excited to see if we can pull out close wins,” Lyon said. “We’ve had average success in the past but our roster is so deep this year that I feel like a few more will swing our way.”
With a veteran lineup, it is much more likely that the team will squeak these wins out in the coming months compared to last season. Chen is currently ranked 14th in the country for singles, and Dhruv Yadav ’18 had the best record on the team last year, going 10-2 at the number four position.
Liu believes that the most important matches of the year will be against Middlebury and Williams.
“This is the case because they’re NESCAC powerhouses and getting a win would be extremely helpful for our postseason,” he said.
Middlebury is currently ranked number two in the country and first in the NESCAC. Last year, they went 6-1 in conference and 22-4 overall. Williams is currently 13th in the nation and 4th in the conference. A win against either of these tough opponents would be a huge confidence boost for the Cardinals, and raise their chances of qualifying for the postseason.
Zacko Brint ’16 and Sam Rudovsky ’16 will captain the 2016 squad, bringing four years of experience and leadership to the team. Brint played with Liu at first doubles last year. They went 7-7 with big wins against higher-ranked Kenyon College and Bates. Rudovsky played many matches at third doubles and sixth singles last year. In addition, he was the lone captain of the team in 2015.
There are high hopes for the Cardinals this season and if their mindset has anything to do with results, it looks as though they will not disappoint.