The College’s tennis teams started off the new semester in style, as the men’s and women’s programs each picked up a pair of comfortable wins in Florida on Monday, March 5.
The women’s team brushed aside Haverford College and Minnesota State University, a Division II team, with identical scores of 8-1.
The 19th-ranked Lions now own a sparkling 8-0 record on the year, which head coach Scott DiCheck attributes to the team’s unique combination of experienced veterans and hungry rookies.
“We have a lot of energy and excitement, a mixture of upper classmen and freshman,” DiCheck said. “If we continue to gel, I think we can have a great season.”
Junior Lauren Balsamo had the best record on the day at 4-0, taking two singles matches and dominating doubles play with her partner, junior Paige Aiello, who also won a singles match against Haverford, 6-3, 6-1.
Aiello, junior Karisse Bendijo, junior Alison Tierney and freshman Deborah Wu each earned three wins across the two matches, with Bendijo and Tierney combining for a doubles win against Minnesota State.
All of the Lions who competed won at least once, and it was another positive performance on a long list of them ahead of Friday’s home meet against Goldey-Beacom College.
Meanwhile, the men’s team had a momentous week, easing past Ursinus College 9-0 before handing a talented Wheaton College team an 8-1 match in what DiCheck labeled a “major match.”
“The match against Wheaton was probably our biggest match of the year in terms of getting into the NCAA tournament because they are an independent team from the midwest region,” junior T.J. Riley said. “The fact that we beat them so badly makes us looks better as they go along and have a good season.”
Riley (positioned first in singles on the day), senior Steven Fernandez (second), junior Marc Nichols (third), senior Daniel Lee (fifth) and freshman Gabe Allen (sixth) won at each opportunity in singles play, while Howard Telson (fourth) picked up a point against Ursinus.
The points were Allen’s first in his collegiate career, and lifelong friend Riley knows he can continue to contribute to the program.
“I don’t have enough words to describe the benefits he brings to the team,” Riley said. “In short, (Allen) is a fighter and you need to be very mentally tough to beat him and even then you may not succeed.”
“(Allen) gave us a great attitude,” DiCheck said. “It’s a great start and he’s definitely going to have a great career at TCNJ.”
The College’s three doubles teams went undefeated, in part as a result of Fernandez’s contributions to the second and third teams.
Riley and Nichols took two 8-4 decisions, Fernandez and Telson earned 8-3 and 8-2 wins, and Fernandez and junior Jordan Cruz won 8-1 and 8-5 against Ursinus and Wheaton, respectively.
The men’s team looks to stay hot when it hosts Swarthmore College this Saturday.