Shtemberg, Lions tennis in full swing

Spring has sprung for Lions’ tennis. The women’s team opened their warm-weather schedule on Sunday as they hosted Muhlenberg College in their indoor tennis complex. The No. 17 Lions handed the Mules a decisive loss, disposing of them by a final score of 8-1.

“Going into it, we knew Muhlenberg was a strong team and didn’t take them for granted,” junior Jackie Shtemberg said. “We showed an excellent performance, and I think it really gave the whole team a big boost.”

Shtemberg, an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Champion last year and ITA All-American, competed for the first time on Sunday since she returned to the College after studying abroad for the duration of the fall semester. Quickly shaking off the rust, Shtemberg handily defeated her opponent in first singles (6-1, 6-4) and won again in doubles, pairing up with freshman Felice Trinh for an 8-2 victory. Shtemberg currently sports an impressive career record of 98-27 at the College, just a few slices and drop shots away from her triple-digit milestone.

“I really did miss it while abroad, and it feels really good to be back with my team and competing and trying to keep everyone pumped up,” Shtemberg said, commenting on her return. “It was hard at first getting my rhythm and strokes back, but I think they are slowly coming back.”

The rest of the squad followed suit as Trinh, junior Stefanie Haar, freshman Christie Pollin and seniors Haley Kutner and Lindsay Katzel all won their singles matches in straight sets. In doubles action, Pollin, an ITA Nationals participant in the fall, teamed up with junior Tamra Wroblesky to claim an 8-3 win. The lone blunder for the women’s team on the day was Haar and Kutner’s 9-7 loss in the third and final doubles match to spoil the perfect victory.

“(The women’s team) played tremendously,” head coach Scott Dicheck said. “They showed a lot of positive energy before and during the match. They are clearly excited for the season.”

The men’s team did not fare as well, however, as they were outmatched at the Salisbury Invitational. The Lions squared off against host Salisbury University as well as Averett University during the two-day event which featured flighted singles and doubles play.

The Lions opened play on Saturday with round-robin style singles matches, and most were defeated by both the Seagulls and Cougars. A shining light for the men in blue and gold was freshman Dan Lee, who won both of his matches on the day.

“I think what gave me an edge is that I never give up, I never back down,” Lee said. “I think it frustrates my opponents because I’ll never just give away a match. As a freshman, there isn’t much pressure, so I’m just out there competing my hardest.”

Lee also had success on the second and final day of the invitational, joining forces with fellow rookie Bill Carrig to win twice more in the round robin doubles competition before falling in the final round of the contest. Also showing promise in the first event of the spring season were sophomore Jonathan Yu and freshman Steve Fernandez who went 3-0 during doubles.

Although they got off to a somewhat rocky start, Lee is still confident in days to come.

“(The invitational) gave us a feel for the competition and got us more mentally prepared for the upcoming season,” Lee said. “The weekend tested our limits physically and mentally and has brought our team closer on the court and off.”

Next on the agenda for the men’s team is another away match in the Big Apple as the Lions will take on the Violets of New York University. The men will meet the women for what will be their first match since Muhlenberg, as both teams will square off against host Skidmore College.

Bobby Olivier can be reached at olivier6@tcnj.edu.