Tennis makes Florida schools their beach

'Two-shot Telson' comes up big. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

A trip to Florida for spring break is something college students generally do to relax and have fun. Not the Lions, who saw both the men’s and women’s tennis teams defeat all comers in the Sunshine State, continuing their usual dominance. The men scored wins over St. Lawrence University, Franklin & Marshall College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by scores of 8-1, 7-2 and 5-4 respectively. The women captured a pair of victories against St. Lawrence and Franklin & Marshall 6-3 and 9-0, respectively.

“I definitely expected the team to compete hard, but I think most of my teammates and I went in with a mindset of knowing we had three tough matches and we were going to have to earn these wins,” junior Howard Telson said. “We went into each match expecting ourselves to be pushed and that allowed us to be our best out there.”

In the match with Rensselaer, the men (5-0) had four of six singles competitors defeating the opposition. Senior T. J. Riley, Telson, freshman Pierce Cooper and senior Jordan Cruz all won their matches, with Telson’s being the most dramatic. With the College desperately needing a win to keep pace with the Engineers, he squeaked out a close victory by scores of 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4.

“I knew that we were going into singles down 2-1 and we were going to have tough matches all around and needed every point we could get,” Telson said. “I had my teammates out there on the court and off cheering for me and pushing me to keep fighting the whole match. That really carried me through.”

Telson also won his doubles match with senior Marc Nichols, 8-5.

Next up against Franklin & Marshall, the Lions nearly completed a clean sweep, with five of the six singles competitors and two of the three doubles teams succeeding in their matches. Riley, Cooper and Telson won again in singles, with sophomore Jack August and freshman Billy Buchbinder getting their first W’s of the trip. Telson and Nichols were once again successful in doubles, as was the team of Buchinder and Cruz.

“The day before, we had a tight 5-4 win against RPI and we knew F&M was going to be tough,” Cooper said. “We got off to a great start in doubles winning two out of three. We knew the singles matches were going to be close and four of (them) went to three sets. We competed well and won five of the six singles to close out the match.”

Finally, in the most impressive win of the vacation, St. Lawrence fell to the College 8-1, with every Lion except Nichols, in first singles, getting the job done. Riley, Cooper and Telson completed the trifecta by each going 3-0 in their matches over the course of the trip. Cruz and August also each picked up another singles win, as none of the matches even went to a third set. The Nichols/Telson and Cruz/Buchbinder tandems notched doubles wins again, while Cooper and August won the third doubles match.

“Even though we were all feeling run down and sore after two days of competing and getting used to playing outside, that really got us playing well and on a roll,” Telson said.

On the women’s side, the College’s (10-0) play was just as eye-popping. In their first duel with Franklin & Marshall, the Lions shut out the opposition 9-0.

Seniors Karisse Bendijo and Allison Tierney set the tone by winning the first two singles matches by scores of 6-0, 6-3 and 6-1, 6-1, respectively. Freshman Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette won her contest by the same score as Tierney’s, while freshman Emma Allen and sophomores Alex Bologno and Sarah Lippincott all won in just two sets each.

In doubles play, the six girls put together three winning combinations, with Bendijo and Tierney, Muniz-Cadorette and Allen and Bologno and Lippincott winning with ease by scores of 8-3, 8-5 and 8-1, respectively.

The win against St. Lawrence was not as dominant, but a win is still a win. Bendijo, Allen and Bologno got singles wins again, and junior Tara Criscuolo got a victory as well. The Lions swept the doubles matches to secure the perfect break.

To get this kind of momentum over break is crucial to the team’s winning ways. They showed just how good of a team they are, both on and off the court.

“We all competed well and supported each other in close matches,” Cooper said. “Even when the guys weren’t playing their best, they were able to pull out critical wins when the team needed them.”

Both teams have a bit of time off now, with the men not playing again until Wednesday, March 27 against Drew University and the women having an absence until Tuesday, April 2 versus Washington College.

“We just want to keep improving,” Cooper said. “At the end of the year, our goal is to qualify for the NCAA tournament and do as well as possible there.”