By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
As the NCAA Division III Tournament — beginning on Friday, May 13 — looms in the distance, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams are trying to prove themselves at the national level.
Both teams were in action on Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10. The men’s team (5-4) rebounded from an 8-1 loss to Skidmore College on Saturday with an 8-1 win of their own against Ithaca College on Sunday.
The women (11-5), having already clinched their conference’s NCAA Tournament seed, went 2-0 on the weekend with wins against Salisbury University and Ithaca College.
“We’ve played so many top nationally ranked teams,” head coach Scott Dicheck said. “We’re a tough team and our guys showed they can bounce back from a tough match.”
The men’s tennis team managed a lone singles win in their 8-1 loss against Skidmore College. Junior Jack August clawed his way back from a one set deficit to win his singles matchup in three sets (4-6, 7-5, 10-5).
The Lions had a shot to bounce back, though, as they hosted Ithaca College with clear skies and motivated minds.
“I felt like I needed to redeem myself,” freshman Omar Bokhari said. “I started up fired up and ready to go.”
Bokhari was one of many casualties in straight sets versus Skidmore.
With a lingering taste of defeat still fresh on their minds, all three doubles teams were prepared to go the distance.
August and junior Mike Stanley and improved their doubles record to 7-2, as they notched another win on court one (8-6). Senior Pierce Cooper and Mitchel Sanders continued to develop synergy on court two with an 8-4 win.
Freshmen Matt Puig and Tim Gavornik gave a glimpse into the College’s future, as they brought home an 8-4 win of their own, which capped off the Lions’s 3-0 sweep of the doubles competition.
In singles, the Lions needed only two wins out of six to clinch a victory. Instead, they earned five. Veterans and freshmen alike combined to hand the Ithaca Bombers a humbling 8-1 loss.
“I had some opportunities to go up to the net today,” Bokhari said. “I was able to execute some of those shots and pull myself through.”
Although both freshmen earned wins in straight sets, Sanders endured a tiebreaker in the second set. All eyes were on the rising star as he battled back for the eighth and final win of the match.
“(Sanders) is still learning how to earn the point and pick his opportunities,” Dicheck said. “He did that especially toward the end.”
While the men’s team fought for an NCAA berth, the women’s team tested its skills on Saturday and Sunday against Salisbury and Ithaca, respectively.
Their road matchup on Saturday brought the Lions to Salisbury University. Junior Anna Prestera and freshman Alyssa Baldi continued to dominate their opponents with an 8-1 win. Seniors Emma Allen and Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette held on for an 8-5 win and the Lions ended doubles with a 2-1 lead.
The College traded wins on courts one through four, as they nurtured a 4-3 lead entering the finals two contests. Baldi quelled any hopes for a Salisbury comeback, as she earned her second win of the day (6-1, 6-2).
Freshman Emily Szkudlarski earned the final win of the day, cementing a 6-3 win.
Sunday’s matchup with Ithaca pitted two conference champions against each other. The Lions, with Allen out due to injury, did not hold back against the Bombers, as they earned a painless 9-0 shutout.
“We were without our senior captain,” Dicheck said. “To have some of the kids step in and continue winning shows the depth of our roster.”
While the women’s team proved it’s worthy of a tournament seed, the men’s team must fight an uphill battle to qualify as an independent competitor. Regardless, the Lions are prepared rally until the final set.
“We’re going to keep fighting and doing our best,” Bokhari said. “Working hard on the court, fighting for every point and never letting up.”