By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
While most students have been bundled inside during the past few weeks, waiting for frigid temperatures to pass, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams were hard at work, preparing for the start of their spring seasons.
“This is the deepest team I’ve had in a long time,” head coach Scott Dicheck said.
Dicheck, who has coached both the men’s and women’s team for 15 seasons, has lead the men to qualification for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Tournament for seven of the past eight years.
“We feel like we’re going to get great opportunities,” he said.
The women’s tennis team earned their 33rd straight conference title last fall. With the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title under their belt, the women’s team will use this time to prepare for their run in the NCAA Tournament.
“We have an incredible schedule with a lot of nationally ranked teams,” Dicheck said. The women will open their spring season at home on Friday, March 11, against Chestnut Hill College at 2 p.m.
The women are lead by three captains — seniors Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette and Emma Allen and junior Anna Prestera.
“We’re getting a lot of hitting in, working on conditioning, and they’re in the weight room three times a week,” Dicheck said. “Come May, the team should be well prepared.”
While the women’s team has already clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the men’s team must fight an uphill battle if they want to achieve their goal of making the cut this year.
“We’re facing a lot of nationally ranked teams — teams from Virginia, Carolina, upstate New York,” Dicheck said. “These teams are traveling to come and play us because of what we did last year in the national scene.”
While there may be single matches, the team focuses on working together as much as possible.
“Our goal is to win as many matches as possible,” sophomore Sean Fernandez said. “It’s important to put the team before yourself.”
The men must qualify by NCAA rankings due to their status as a nonconference team and are currently ranked at No. 37, according to Dicheck.
“Our ultimate goal is to make it to NCAAs,” Dicheck said. “We’ll go in as underdogs for half of our schedule, if you look at the rankings. We’re hoping to prove them wrong come year’s end.”
The men’s team will also see the return of last year’s starters, providing them with a strong sense of established team chemistry.
“We get along great,” senior Jason Prezant said. “You can find us all together in (Eickhoff Hall). People always trip on our tennis bags while trying to get by.”
Although all the starters will return from last season, a talented freshman class will help build the foundation for success down the road.
“Other teams know we have the same starters with such strong young talent coming up,” Dicheck said. “They want to play us and that’s perfect for us.”
The men will face off against a number of teams, but their matchup on Monday, April 25, with Stevens Institute of Technology stands out as a chance for redemption.
“We almost beat Stevens the last time we faced off,” Prezant said. “I’m confident this is the year.”
The Lions will face off against another rival, New York University, on Wednesday, March 30. Both matchups will take place on the Lions’s home turf.
According to Prezant, teams will often opt for road matchups in order to use the College’s facilities. With so many matches at home, the home crowd will likely help tip the scales in favor of the Lions.
“Having the fans come out and support us has a huge impact the players,” Prezant said. “A lot of the game is just mentality. It can really change the outcome of a game… The vibe around the team is very positive. We definitely have something special.”
The men’s tennis team will open their season at home on Wednesday, Feb. 17, against Chestnut Hill College.