Any doubts about the Men’s Tennis Team were laid to rest after their 8-0 start. Among the victories were two this week over Tufts and Middlebury and a Spring Break win over NAIA power Point Loma Nazarene College (CA). The victory over Point Loma underscored the team’s strength. After not playing matches for a year, nor practicing outside during the previous months, the team was able to win rather handily, 6-1, against the favored team.
Captain and #1 player Andrew Fagenholz ’98 cites a number of factors that have led to the team’s current success. “[The team] is composed of good individual competitors; players that know how to grind out a win when they are not playing as well as they can, a very important trait.” In addition, Fagenholz says he believes the “dynamic competitive environment” of the team, especially from the progress of its underclassmen, has been key to making this team a healthy one.
The squad dominated in its 6-1 win over NESCAC opponent Middlebury. Fagenholz easily defeated Middlebury’s Will Parker 6-2, 6-2. #2 James Frank ’98, who lost a closely fought 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 match against Middlebury’s Rick Morgan, and #3 Sherman Lim ’99, a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Adam Green, were the only Ephs taken to three sets.
Williams was able to capture two of the three doubles matchups of the day, with the teams of Scott Zinober ’99/Evan Hornbuckle ’99 and Bill Stebbins ’99/Pete Stein ’00 carrying the day.
The win showcased not only the team’s overall balance but also some of its individual talent. Fagenholz was able to overpower his opponent through his repertoire of kick-serves, leading his opponent to routinely miss what is commonly thought of as the second-most important shot in tennis, the return-of-serve. His intense style suited him well against the hard-hitting Parker. “I guess I have learned the importance of being intense and running after everything like a recently beheaded chicken, or maybe a bit more gracefully,” Fagenholz said.
The Ephs’ dominance continued against Tufts. Despite the loss of Lim, who was playing in the Davis Cup in Singapore, the team convincingly beat the Jumbos 7-0, with no Eph even being taken to three sets.
A particular highlight of the day was the play of Stebbins. A new singles starter moved up due to the absence of Lim, Stebbins used an overall consistent ground game with several killer backhands to defeat Tufts’ Chris Fuke, 6-0, 6-3.
Stebbins notes that the team, with its “unbelievable depth” in its top seeds, was able to “step up” in the abscence of Lim. According to Stebbins the team’s seventh to tenth ranked players (non-starters) could have been victorious in the #6 spot against Tufts had they played that day.
The team hopes to continue this string of victories throughout Northeast play and thus remain in position for a bid to Nationals. The team’s chances look very strong right now, even with matches against Trinity and Amherst looming on the horizon. As of now, the squad has the makings of an excellent season.