The Lehigh men’s tennis team took on Monmouth, Drexel and Patriot League opponent Colgate in its annual Lehigh Invitational.
In a weekend packed with tennis at home, the Mountain Hawks capitalized on several victories. Lehigh won five singles flights and two doubles flights against Monmouth. In a tough battle with Drexel, the team ultimately won four flights in singles and split doubles. Lehigh closed off its weekend with its most successful match against Colgate, winning seven flights in singles and four in doubles.
Coach Wouter Hendrix said he was pleased with the weekend’s results.
“I thought that the whole team competed very well, and they applied a lot of what we worked on in practice, both singles and doubles,” Hendrix said. “I thought we brought a lot of good positive energy, were very focused from start to finish and were able to put some good results on the board.”
Sophomore Zack Elliot said Lehigh’s dominance against Colgate was especially motivating because winning conference matches not only feels great, but also helps the team prepare for similar competition in the conference moving forward.
“It is always good to beat up on teams in our conference, and Colgate is a team that plays hard against us every year and is always a tough match for us,” Elliott said. “The other teams that were at the tournament this weekend are along the same level as the teams in our conference so just playing against guys like that and gaining good experience will only help us.”
Much of Lehigh’s success at the invitational came from singles play. Freshman Matt Kleiman, Elliot, sophomore Gary Fishkin and senior Harry Wang all went undefeated in singles.
Hendrix said while a successful fall season is always a promising sign, he’s most excited and proud of the improvement he’s seen from his players across the board.
He said the four freshmen have made an immediate impact on the team. Contributions from Kleiman, Jeremy Learner, Michael Bukhalo and Steven Nazaroff have helped the Mountain Hawks.
In his first-ever match against a Patriot League opponent, Learner did not surrender a single game.
Wang said the freshmen, who account for almost half of the roster, have changed the team dynamic this season in a positive way. He added that their individual skill sets will be advantageous for the team as it looks ahead to the fall season’s culminating tournament in October, as well as the upcoming spring season.
“Having four new players on a team where we only have nine guys is a big cultural shift,” Wang said. “The freshmen bring a lot of energy and power, which will certainly help us this year.”
For Hendrix, complacency is not an option. He said the team will need to maintain its level of commitment and hard work after the fall season ends in order to be ready for the tough competition it will face come spring.
“We can’t be happy with this,” Hendrix said. “Obviously, we have to stay hungry, and it’s all about what we are going to do in the next couple months to prepare for our main season in the spring.”
Lehigh will continue to use the fall period to focus on individual work and the improvement of the team’s overall fitness. Strength and conditioning coach Dom Carlineo worked with the athletes this fall to help the players reach and maintain their physical shape.
Elliot said the individualized training in the fall allows the players to push themselves harder before focus shifts to the spring season’s more technical training.
“A lot of our training this fall has been more individually-focused, which, when we get back to the spring season, will help us play better overall tennis,” Elliot said. “We have already been focusing a lot of our fall on fitness because you can push your body a little harder in the offseason.”
The culminating invitational to the fall season presents a different atmosphere. At the ITA Regionals, players from different rosters in the northeast region are invited to compete. Hendrix said he is confident there will be Mountain Hawks in attendance.
Lehigh will focus its efforts toward sending Mountain Hawk athletes to compete in the ITA Regionals on Oct. 17, in Princeton, New Jersey.