The April 1 match-up marks the culmination of more than a month’s worth of vigorous indoor practices and a week-long training session in Puerto Rico. However, while the Lord Jeffs look forward to continuing the successful endeavors of the 2002 fall season, they must face the challenges posed by team injuries. First-year phenom Danny Babkes sustained a wrist injury in the off-season. Babkes, ranked number one in last year’s USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, made integral contributions to the team with a 2-1 record in NESCAC play at the first singles spot.
Fellow dynamic rookie Josh Rilla ’06 has taken a three month leave from the tennis courts while battling mononucleosis. Rilla, one of last year’s top-10 USTA New England Section players, played in the number two singles spot and also finished with a perfect record of 3-0 in NESCAC play. Babkes and Rilla also comprised the first doubles team, finishing off the fall season with a 2-1 record in conference matches. Both anticipate being in the line-up when the Lord Jeffs face off against the Camels, though their order within the line-up is uncertain at this point. “I’m not sure if I’ll be playing at the second spot,” said Rilla. “We’ll have to see how well I’m playing. It’ll take me a while to get back into it.”
Teammates have lauded Babkes and Rilla for their hefty contributions to the team as well as their impressive collegiate rookie debuts. Senior co-captain Brian Chin points out that although the first-year duo is essential to the team’s success, “everyone is stepping up. Even if [Babkes and Rilla] can’t play at 100 percent, [the team] can still play.”
Chin said he anticipates big contributions and strong leadership from Adam Leibsohn ’03 (who put up a 2-1 record in the third singles spot) and co-captain Andy Tsai ’03 (3-0 in the number four singles spot). He also expects consistent and solid performances from sophomores Max Rettig and Arpan Podduturi, who played fifth and sixth singles interchangeably, both posting 3-0 records with wins in straight sets. “I’m also trying to step it up,” said Chin. Chin played mostly doubles last semester, following a semester abroad, but hopes to secure a position in singles play this semester.
The Lord Jeffs defeated the Conn. Camels in a dominating 6-1 performance during the 2001-2002 season. However, the Jeff men are not taking this first match lightly.
“It’s always important to start off strong against a NESCAC rival,” said team veteran Andy Sagor ’03.
This year, with a team steeped in talent, Amherst anticipates another commanding performance against their Conn. opponents. Other eagerly anticipated match-ups include M.I.T., as well as Williams and Middlebury Colleges starting in mid-April.