MTEN & WTEN: Tennis teams travel to Hilton Head, S.C.

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MTEN & WTEN: Tennis teams travel to Hilton Head, S.C.

Nicole Gaetani

Nicole Gaetani

Nicole Gaetani

Luke Modrovsky, Sports Editor

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Wilkes Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams traveled to Hilton Head, S.C. over spring break for their annual southern excursion. The teams competed in a total 10 matches with a combined record of 7-3. The women left Hilton Head with a near-perfect 3-1 record, while the men went 4-2.

“The trip is an excellent way to start spring season,” head coach Chris Leicht said. “It’s good for team bonding. It’s definitely something that has made our program unique.”

Leicht said that Hilton Head has become a big spring break destination for tennis teams. This year, over 50 teams from all collegiate levels converged on the island.

“This is part of our training to win conference championships,” Leicht said. “The trip is part of what makes our program unique. It’s how we get ready for the grind.”

Many of the student-athletes see many benefits in the trip.

“Last year when we came back, everyone was much closer,” sophomore Francesca Varela-Seri said. “The same definitely applies for this year’s trip too. It’s good to feel that bond with everyone. It’s all about creating stronger bonds with people. You see them around campus all the time.”

“It was a true team bonding experience,” senior Andrew Neidig said, stating that the trip was a “great opportunity that Coach Leicht and the University provide.”

Varela-Seri referenced the environment and energy team has when playing. “It’s a good feeling knowing your teammates are there,” she said.

One of the unique aspects of the spring break trip is the ability to just focus on tennis for the week. Since classes are not in session, the players are able to do so.

“The competition is outstanding down there,” Leicht said. “It gets us ready for tough competition back home, especially our tough non-conference schedule.”

Men’s Tennis

The Colonels return to Wilkes-Barre in search of their eleventh straight MAC Freedom title and NCAA appearance. Last season, Wilkes finished 23-4, along with a perfect 6-0 record in MAC Freedom play.

They fell in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament to Williams College, but not before grabbing a 5-0 victory in the opening round against Messiah College.

The winner of the MAC Freedom Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

One of the players expected to make a ripple not only the regional level, but perhaps even the national level too. Senior Courtney Murphy is a returning All-American, and was the first Colonel to ever gain that status at the NCAA Men’s Singles Championships in 2017. The two-time MAC Freedom Player of the Year helps the Colonels build a strong team from top to bottom.

“It’s nice to have one of the top players on your team,” Leicht said. “It pushes everyone down a spot.”

But playing No. 1 singles is never an easy task.

“He never gets a match off,” Leicht said. “ He has to be ready to go every single match.”

Murphy with pair up with junior Jonathan White in doubles action.

Senior captain Andrew Neidig looks forward to the upcoming season, of which will be his last.

“We all have big aspirations individually, but it’s all about taking it one step at a time,” Neidig said.

The senior captain said that he also views his leadership role as important.

“My goal is to be a leader on and off the court,” Neidig said. “We have a young team, and it’s all about teaching them and making sure you’re a role model.”

Looking ahead, Neidig said there’s is much more to come.

“It’s been a good year so far but we have a lot more to accomplish.”

Expected to lock in for No. 2 and No. 3 singles are senior Artyom Nabokin and junior Jonathan White.

Neidig, junior Braddock Chow and sophomore Chris Maderitz are expected to round out the starting singles players at No. 4, 5 and 6 singles.

Sophomore Alec Levin and junior transfer Andrew MacDonald will also compete for court time as upperclassmen.

The Colonels also recruited a talent freshman class including: Matt Angara, Mike Ellis, Colin Greenman, Jack Maline, Larry Scartz, Isaac Shenton and Ryan Simon.

Women’s Tennis

The Lady Colonels return to Wilkes-Barre in search of their twelfth straight MAC Freedom title and NCAA appearance. Last season, Wilkes finished with a school record 24 wins, along with a perfect 6-0 record in MAC Freedom play.

They fell in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament to Williams College, but not before grabbing a 5-0 victory to Johnson & Wales University in the opening round.

Th winner of the MAC Freedom Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

One of their returners is junior Jordan Vasarkovy, the reigning conference player of the year. Vasarkovy will play a grueling schedule at No. 1 singles.

“She’s going to play a lot of regionally ranked players,” Leicht said. “If she can stay consistent, she’ll have her own chance to be ranked.”

Vasarkovy and sophomore Dana Saliyev will team together for No. 1 doubles.

“Dana is strong at the net, and is becoming stronger with every match that she plays,” Leicht said.

Sophomore Francesca Varela-Seri is also returning and captured her second MAC Individual singles and doubles crowns in the fall. She’s expected to play mostly No. 2.

Sophomores Saliyev and Laura Zielinski and junior Erin Volutza are expected to hold the middle of the order from No. 3 through No. 5.

Brittany Stanton, the lone senior, will mostly see starts at No. 6, but could be bumped up as high as No. 4 for certain matches.

Juniors Courtney McCowan and Nicole Gaetani, along with freshmen Sarah Malone and Dagney Markle will also compete for court time, seeing spot starts.

Varela-Seri/Zielinski and Stanton/Volutza will hold down the remaining doubles flights for Wilkes at No. 2 and 3 respectively.

While she did say she was focused on the season as a whole, there was one match that Varela-Seri had picked out.

Varela-Seri said the match against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) during non-conference play is one she’s looking forward to.

“Let’s just say I’m excited for that one,” Varela-Seri said.

But with both squads, one impressive thing about the Wilkes Tennis program is their ability to compete year after year.

Leicht referenced the ability to bring in strong freshman, particularly this year.

But it doesn’t stop there, with the grind of both a strong non-conference schedule, and minimal breaks, Leicht credits their speed and agility program, saying that they have done more recently to step up their fitness.

“Keith (Klahold) and Jeff (Grear) have done a fantastic job for us, getting us ready year after year.,” Leicht said.

The trip did have one minor snafu as the initial arrival for the Lady Colonels had a wrench thrown into their plans.

“We get there, and the codes don’t work,” Varela-Seri said.

Well, the codes did not work because the team was told to arrive at the wrong house.

Varela-Seri said that the owner of the house came outside and asked what was going on.

“It was stressful at the time, but looking back at it, it was pretty funny.”

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