Men's Tennis, Rocked by Departures, Searches for Consistent Showings
Issue   |   Fri, 09/01/2017 - 01:49
Amherst Athletics
Zach Bessette '19 had an impressive sophomore campaign in 2016-17, often notching wins on both the first singles and doubles courts.

Last season, Amherst men’s tennis was frustratingly inconsistent. A roster with talent up and down the lineup played breathtaking tennis at times, nearly knocking off top-ranked Emory and posting both 10- and 11-game win streaks. However, the Mammoths also fell twice to their archrival Williams, with the latter loss ending Amherst’s season in the third round of NCAAs.

This fall, Doebbler surely hopes that the team will be able to grow more comfortable playing with each other, an especially important goal as there was enormous turnover from last season to this campaign. Apart from the graduating class of 2017, which had managed to win a national title in their first year at Amherst and boasted several talented individuals, the Mammoths also lost three of last year’s first years. Josh Marchalik, Oscar Burney and Chris Paradis, each of whom impressed last year, have all departed campus.

The hope for this edition of the Amherst squad is that the play of several returnees, especially Zach Bessette ’19 and Jayson Fung ’20, will lift the team to an even greater level of success. Bessette spent most of last season in the number one singles spot and sported an impressive record, especially given the high level of play seen on the first court.

Fung, meanwhile, took some time to adjust to the college level of play but, by the end of the spring season, he was more than ready, earning the fourth overall seed in the NCAA doubles bracket alongside Bessette.

Gabe Owens ’20, one of the few members of his class to stay alongside Fung and Nathan Kaplan, will also be leaned upon heavily to replace the production of those who left. Owens does seem prepared, though, as he generally played on one of the top three courts in the spring season, competing on court three in the Mammoths’ NCAA loss to Williams.

However, Amherst has no seniors to look to, as Ben Birkenfeld ’18, the sole member of his class to play on the team, left the program. For the Mammoths, especially for Doebbler, all these losses aren’t the death knell that they might be for some teams, as the coach has developed a reputation as an incredible recruiter.

Indeed, last year’s first years, his first full recruiting class, held four of the top five slots in the singles lineup if the members who transferred are included. If this year’s incoming class can match the talent and production of their predecessors, the Mammoths will be national contenders.

Only the team’s individual and doubles talents will be tested this fall, though, as Amherst will just participate in three invitationals, each of which will contain both singles and doubles brackets.

The first of these tournaments, which will mark the beginning of the fall season for the Mammoths, is ITA New England Regional Championships, which will be played the weekend of Sept. 29-Oct. 1 on Middlebury’s campus.

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