The Cabrini men’s tennis team is preparing for its upcoming spring season, which will kick off with a three-day tournament over spring break in Hilton Head, S.C.
New to the team are freshmen Brendon Hajas, Levent Beken and Walter Jesuncosky, who are expected to keep improving.
“Depending on their progress, our team could be at the same level as last year or slightly better,” Rich Aldrete, head coach, said.
This is Aldrete’s seventh year as head coach. He joined the coaching staff in 1997 as an assistant coach. The team is determined to be Colonial State Athletic Conference champions this season, having just finished short the past few years.
“For me, we would only have a successful year if we won the conference,” captain Justin Walsh, senior health and wellness management major, said. “In the last three or four years, we’ve finished second or third. We definitely have the talent [this year], we just have to put it all together.”
Winning the CSAC will take beating last year’s conference champion Neumann College.
“Neumann is returning strong again and is our biggest competition,” Aldrete said.
The winner of the CSAC is automatically qualified into the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Aldrete believes that the team has a good chance of making it this year.
The sophomores on the team have showed improvement, who will be ranked higher this season. Sophomore Mingkuang Lou won the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in the 2008 season.
“He’s a real solid player,” Aldrete said. “He’s poised to be a conference champion. There’s a one-two punch with Justin and Ming, and they are backed up by another solid player, sophomore John Van Wagner.”
Another sophomore, Michael Sim, is also expected to play higher than his position in sixth last year, due to the absence of two seniors who graduated.
“This year we lost two key players, Duff O’Connor and Drew Brandstetter to graduating, so we’re definitely going to miss them. In their place, we have some new additions who we hope can fill Duff and Drew’s void as much as possible,” Walsh said.
“All returning players put the time in over the summer and fall to improve their game and are demonstrating it on the court at practice,” Michael Sim, sophomore psychology major, said. “Our three new walk-ons have really stepped it up from the fall as well.” The team played five exhibition matches in the fall.
The players are currently trying to get out and hit at least five or six days a week, but will have practice or a game almost every day when the season starts.
“I think we have a pretty good chance at winning our division,” Levent Beken, freshman biology and pre-med major, said. “I know that as long as we go out as a team and give it 100 percent, no matter what the outcome is, we will be happy with ourselves. I can’t wait to get on the courts and battle it out. I love every minute of tennis.”
The team will play a total of 14 games this season against eight teams in the CSAC.
Aldrete said that there are a total of four solid teams in the conference.
This year the conference lost Eastern University, Immaculata University and Alvernia University.
The tennis team is going to continue practicing and getting ready for its first match in Hilton Head on March 9.
After spring break, they first play Neumann on March 17.
“We will practice in Hilton Head and play conference champion Neumann when we get back. It will be an important match,” Aldrete said.
The match against Neumann will determine whether Cabrini is seeded first or second in the spring 2009 season.