Spring Preview: Men's Tennis
Issue   |   Tue, 02/18/2014 - 22:45
Niahlah Hope '15
Joey Fritz '14 and the Jeffs posted a 30-7 record last spring.

Coming off a solid 2013 season that ended with a loss in the NCAA semifinals against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the Amherst men’s tennis team hopes to make another title run this year.

After a mediocre fall season in 2012, with tough losses against Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon, the Jeffs turned it around for the spring, where they had a 14-match win streak that featured close victories over NESCAC foes, Williams, Bowdoin and Bates. The stretch was snapped, however, in the NESCAC Finals against archrival Williams, as the Jeffs lost 5-4 in dramatic fashion. Despite finishing as runner-ups in the NESCAC tourney and not achieving their ultimate goal of wining the national championship, the Jeffs still have a lot to be proud of from 2013.

Notably, Mark Kahan ’13 closed his outstanding collegiate career with a runner-up finish in the NCAA Div. III Individual Championship for men’s singles. In the final, Kahan fell to Adam Putterman of Washington Univ. in St. Louis, 3-6, 1-6, but he had some remarkable wins along the way, including an upset over the top seed of the tournament, Nicholas Ballou of Cal Lutheran. At the end of the season, Kahan earned first team All-NESCAC honors for singles players as well as second team All-NESCAC in doubles.

“Everyone still yells Mark’s name at practice, so I guess in a way he is still with us,” said head coach Chris Garner when asked how the team will fill the void of the former captain.

Even though they will be without Kahan, the Jeffs still have a number of talented players returning to the court this season, including senior co-captain Joey Fritz, who also earned first team All-NESCAC honors last year as well as Academic All-District honors. Fritz will likely be playing in the team’s top singles spot again in the spring, as the senior posted 3-0 record this past fall.

The likely No. 2 singles player will be sophomore Andrew Yaraghi, who was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year last year in addition to earning second team All-NESCAC honors in both singles and doubles. Notably, Yaraghi made his collegiate debut by winning ITA Regionals in the fall of 2012, defeating his teammate, Ben Fife ’16, in the finals, 6-2, 6-2. Yaraghi’s success continued throughout the season, as he played primarily in the No. 3 singles spot. A versatile player, the sophomore also shined in doubles last spring, where he started his college career by winning 14 out of his first 15 matches.

Michael Solimano ’16 and Chris Dale ’14 were also critical factors to the Jeffs’ doubles success, both of them having earned second team All-NESCAC honors in doubles last year. Despite losing his main doubles partner, Kahan, to graduation, Solimano has found success with his new partner, who also happens to be his roommate, Aaron Revzin ’16, in the No. 2 doubles spot. The duo went undefeated this past fall, going 3-0, an 8-6 victory over Carnegie Mellon.

When asked to comment on how it feels to play with his roommate, Revzin said, “We do everything together, for better and for worse. I’m a huge proponent of team bonding. Any time spent off the court helps our chemistry on court.”

Solimano also played in the No. 4 singles spot this past fall, winning both of his matches against Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon.

A number of first-years bring some new talent into the mix. Anton Zykov ’17 stepped up to the plate in the fall, going undefeated in the No. 3 doubles spot with Yaraghi. Zykov also made his collegiate debut in the No. 3 singles spot, where he went 2-1.

Amherst’s depth will definitely play to the team’s strength, as a number of their players are capable of playing at an elite level.

“If the sun is out, I hope all of them can shine,” Garner said when asked if he expected any particular players to stand out.

The team’s first contest of the 2014 season is scheduled for March 17 when the Jeffs will be in California for their annual spring break trip. The team will split squads for the majority of the week, playing a series of 18 matches, which includes a rematch against CMS. From now until then, Garner and the Jeffs look to establish a consistent line-up that will bring in the necessary wins to give themselves another shot at the national championship, which is everyone’s goal.

“We are really excited for the season. We have a lot of talent, just like last year, in addition to a bunch of great freshmen. Hopefully if we put the work in, we’ll be able to put ourselves in a position to do well,” Fritz said.

Amherst is currently ranked third in the nation for Div. III tennis, just behind Williams and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, respectively. In the past five seasons, the team has won two NESCAC titles (2011, 2012) and competed in three NCAA finals (2009, 2010, 2011) but has only brought home one national championship (2011).

This year, the team looks to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, the NESCAC Championship and the NCAA Div. III title.