Tennis teams on fire

Taking advantage of playing on home court under clear skies and in warm weather, both tennis teams rode strong all-around play to a combined 4-0 record over the weekend, outscoring opponents 30-5 to showcase solid form as their regular season finales draw near.

The men’s team won three straight. (Lisa Nitzsche / Staff Photographer)

It was business as usual for the 23rd-ranked women’s team on Saturday, when the Lions showed off their depth by steamrolling past SUNY New Paltz and Salisbury back-to-back by an aggregate score of 17-1.

“We were impressive. Obviously anytime you do a doubleheader you’re out there all day, it’s tough,” said head coach Scott Dicheck, who used 10 different players through both matches. “We’re just happy, it was an overall great team effort.”

The Lions (14-1) are on a six-game tear heading into the last week of their regular season, and their emphasis opening matches with robust doubles play has been paying off.

The team has won the doubles battle in all fourteen of their wins this year, and the streak continued when they went 6-for-6 on Saturday.

“That’s been one of our focuses the last few years. Of the three doubles teams, we feel like we’ve got one of the best (teams) in the country,” Dicheck said. “We set the tone, and the girls have really bought into that mindset. They enjoy that aspect of the game.”

Juniors Paige Aiello and Lauren Balsamo linked up to improve to 9-0 as a team on the season, seniors Felice Trinh and Emily Petersack moved up in the program’s all-time doubles winners list by combining for two more points and senior Karisse Bendijo helped earn another two wins with different partners.

The team maintained dominance in singles play, where Bendijo led the way by with a 2-0 record in the first position. Freshmen Sarah Lippincott and Deborah Wu helped by adding two points each to stay perfect in dual meets, and the rest of the Lions rolled to victories, with only one point being conceded to SUNY.

Meanwhile, the men picked up a pair of 7-2 wins over Salisbury University and Washington College to improve to 8-3 overall, extending their win streak to a season-high three games.

Like the women’s team, the men took early control of both games through early dominance in doubles, winning five of six matches and only conceding one point to Salisbury against a white-hot pairing.

“Doubles has to do with mix and matching the right playing styles and personalities together, and right now the pairings have been what (they) should be,” junior T.J. Riley said. “We are a very tough team in doubles, and we will continue to improve as the season goes along.”

Senior Steven Fernandez and Riley combined for two wins in the second position, while juniors Marc Nichols and Jordan Cruz linked up for another two in the third.

Both leads were never in danger of being lost in singles, where the Lions won both times in the third, fourth and sixth positions thanks to performances from Nichols, sophomore Howard Telson and freshman Gabe Allen.

The team wins were another couple of great results for the Lions, who have been winning thanks to a classic combination of effort and teamwork.

“We have been very good at sticking by our teammates and backing them up when they need help on and off the court,” Riley said.

The wins also bode well for the Lions’ chances at the NCAA tournament, where they will be competing with tough opponents.

“We can beat nationally ranked teams and we have had good matches with both of the ranked teams we’ve lost to,” Riley said. “We are definitely in the hunt for a national ranking, and we look to make a run in the NCAA tournament.”