Defending Div. III champs men’s tennis has all pieces in place

The future is looking bright for men’s tennis in all senses of the word, as the team begins preparation for a title defense in the 2002 season. Champions of Div. III last year for the second time – the title came on the heels of a 4-1 thrashing of UC Santa Cruz – the Ephmen look well-positioned to repeat as champions, returning all but one of the members of their title-winning squad.

With matches against a quartet of different California schools during a pre-season tour of the state over spring break, this group will soon be heating up quickly after a long winter.

Blazing the way for the Ephs will be three-time All-American selection Josh Lefkowitz ’02, a team leader and the side’s undisputed top gun.

Lefkowitz is the only New England Div. III player to win the Rolex New England title three times, winning the honor last year despite a season plagued by nagging injuries. If he’s at full strength, and all signs point to a healthy Lefkowitz, look for the senior to become even more dominant in his final campaign.

Joining him will be fellow returning All-Americans Toby Reigeluth ’04 (doubles) and David Frankel ’04 (singles). Milos Janicek ’02, a member of last year’s NCAA Travel Team, is expected to fill the open singles position in the line-up, a slot vacated by graduated captain Dan Matro ’01.

Reigeluth, an All-NESCAC selection and the doubles partner of Lefkowitz last season, will attempt to step up the singles side of his game, while Frankel – who was named the ITA National Player to Watch – will look to maintain the staggering level of play seen last spring as a first-year.

All-NESCAC duo Andrew Murray ’04 and Daniel Murray ’04 return after a fantastic rookie campaign that saw them confirmed as a doubles powerhouse. With both brothers among the top six singles players in the squad as well, opponents certainly would be wise to fear and respect the duo.

Fellow sophomores Lex Urban ’04 and John Haywood ’04 will be aiming to replicate the success of their classmates and become impact players on the squad. Along with Janicek, upperclassmen such as Kurt Palmer ’02 and Matt Haldeman ’02 will certainly be looking to convey some of their veteran knowledge to the younger players, who include the talented Tim White ’05.

ITA Northeast Region Coach of the Year Dave Johnson returns to manage the squad for his 15th season. Compiling a 161-34 record over those years, Johnson – also the men’s squash coach and an assistant dean of the college – will look to continue his impressive streak of nine consecutive NESCAC Championships and seven straight Little Three Championships.

“This is as talented a group of tennis players as has ever been together at Williams at the same time,” said Johnson. “The good news is that if everyone remains healthy and focused, there is no challenge this team cannot overcome.

“The bad news, and I guess this is the point at which I come in, is that right now expectations are threatening to overtake the reality of playing out a long season where all sorts of unknowns will have to be dealt with.

“But the bottom line is that I could not be more proud of what this team has accomplished last season or more excited about the season ahead.”

The March 18 match against Pt. Loma marks the opening of the season for Williams, who will also travel to take on Pomona, Redlands and Claremont over the course of six days in sunny California. Two quick away matches await the Ephs upon their return, as competition against UVM and Dartmouth on March 29 and 30 will get the team used to east coast conditions once again.

With luck, the team will be able to avoid April showers – the NESCAC schedule is entirely contained within that month, and kicks off on the second against Middlebury.

Then again, asking for luck for this squad may be overkill; these Ephwomen look primed to shine once again, and with luck, will again be holding the trophy come May.