Men’s tennis kicks off season with preview match

Will Soffel, Contributing Writer

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The men’s tennis team started off their 2016 spring season on Friday, Feb. 19 against John Carroll University at the Westwood Racquet Club in Erie.  The Gators lost the match 4-5.  Although the team started off the season with a loss, Head Coach Jared Luteran has high hopes for the rest of the season.

“It didn’t go very well, that was our first loss to John Carroll in a really long time,” said Luteran.  “We lost key seniors last year who are tough to replace, but we have a lot of new freshman that need to step up.”

Thomas Manning, ’16, the only captain of the men’s tennis team, is ranked 50th in the country and 13th in the central region, which consists of the NCAC, University Athletic Association and Ohio Athletic Conference at the start of the 2016 spring season.

“It was a really close match that could have gone either way, but not enough came together,” said Manning.  “We have some good freshman starting for us this season and they will continue to get better as the season goes on.”

Along with Manning, Samarth Gopal, ’16, also anticipates a good season ahead.

“We hit a little speed bump, but we are ready to have a good season,” said Gopal.  “We are very excited to take on the competition this season.”

The team had to deal with unpredictable weather throughout the course of the preseason, which made practicing tough.

“We were able to practice on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 outside on the courts, but the rest of the time we have been in the gym,” said Luteran.  “We have had to be able to adjust and live with what we got.”

Manning said that they are lucky to have indoor courts, but it is an adjustment to get used to the fast surfaces.

“In a way it helps us get ready faster because we have to be able to shorten our swings and get to the ball faster,” said Gopal.

The Gators have worked hard off the court to prepare for the season with Randy Moore, director of peak performance and fitness.

“We have been working really hard with Coach Randy in the weight room doing leg and core training and it is definitely going to pay off,” said Manning.  “It’s good to have a professional like Randy to help us get stronger and faster on the court.”

Luteran said that the team has been practicing hard as they are preparing for a long and tough season.

“This is the toughest schedule we have had in years,” said Luteran.  “We play four matches against four very good teams in Hilton Head for spring break so we will have to keep our chins up when we are down there.”

Manning looks forward to playing the good competition in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

“Spring break is going to be great this year,” said Manning.  “It is ideal to play four good teams and it will be nice because these matches will be our first matches outside this season.”

The Gators will continue a tough schedule after break with a lot of conference play.

“Hilton Head will be good for us because when we come back we will be right in the thick of our season,” said Luteran.  “Right now our men’s team is ranked 15th in our central region, which is one of the toughest regions in the country.”

The men’s team is preparing for their next two matches with a full week of practice ahead.

“We are practicing outside on the courts…while the weather is nice to prepare for a long day of tennis on Saturday,” said Luteran.

Manning and Gopal are excited to have a chance to get their first wins of the season this weekend.

“We are ready for the double header this Saturday and we are looking forward to taking on Wabash first who is one of the best teams in our conference,” said Manning.

Gopal is also eager after starting their season with a loss to get back out on the court and prepare for more matches this week.

“We are all really pumped for a big weekend,” said Gopal.

The Gators will play their next two matches on Saturday, Feb. 27 against Wabash College at 12:30 p.m. and Case Western Reserve University at 4:30 p.m. at the Mayfield Racquet Club in Cleveland, Ohio.

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