Men's tennis boasts a strong, youthful group of returnees

The men began the fall season by defeating Salve Regina University, 6-1. The highlight of the fall season came early on, as the Jeffs won the ECAC North Championship, Sept. 19-21, at Vassar College, edging Div. I opponent Lehigh University. Josh Rilla ’06, Danny Babkes ’06, co-captain Max Rettig ’05 and Jon Godsall ’06 won the first, third, fourth and fifth singles flights, respectively. In addition, Scott Bronner ’06 and Karti Subramanian ’07 were victorious in the doubles championship. The win showed marked improvement from the year before, when the men came in third.

Other highlights of the fall season included Rilla’s performance at the Omni ITA New England Championships, hosted Sep. 26-28 by MIT. Rilla individually reached the semifinals of the tournament playing against a number of Div. I and III opponents.

The men finished their fall by with a 4-3 victory at Brandeis University. “Jon Godsall was the hero of that match, pulling out a grueling three-set match to give us the victory,” said Rettig.

“Our fall was short but really good. We only have a few head-to-head matches in the fall, so we are all just try to get back into physical shape for the spring season,” explained Rilla.

The men feel prepared for the coming season. “We just got back from a spring break trip to California where we got a chance to actually play outside on nice courts in the sunshine and it really revitalized the entire team,” said Rilla. “We’re a much closer-knit group of guys now and I think that will show in our determination this spring.”

The Jeffs will begin their spring season by hosting the Boston College Eagles this afternoon. According to Rettig, the Jeffs envision the opening match as a kind of tune-up for Amherst which “will give us good exposure against a very tough Div. I team.”

This match should prepare the team for its first NESCAC meet, March 29 at Tufts University. Rettig called it “a key match if we are going to make the national tournament in May.”

Another key match will come on April 10 as the men play at Williams College; the Ephs have won the National Championship two of the last three years and are currently ranked second in the nation.

“I am confident, however, and my teammates are confident, that we will be able to break our losing streak against Williams this year,” said Rettig.

The NESCAC is a very competitive conference, with a number of teams in the top 25 in the nation. In addition to Williams, Middlebury and Bates Colleges as well as Tufts are all in the top 25.

Though the team’s schedule is tough, the Jeffs have high expectations. “Our goal for this season is to qualify for regionals of the NCAA Tournament,” said Godsall.

Rilla and Babkes occupy the top two spots on the Jeffs’ ladder. “We’ll look to them to shore up the top of the lineup in both singles and doubles,” said Rettig. Rettig and his fellow co-captain Robert Feeley ’04 also play in the singles lineup.

“Jeff Lawrence is a first-year and will start for us in both singles and doubles, probably teaming with Godsall, who himself is a contender for a spot in the singles lineup,” said Rettig. He also mentioned Arpan Podduturi ’05 and Subramanian as other important players.

Last spring, the men finished with a 6-6 record and a ninth-place showing at the NESCAC championships. After starting off with an impressive 3-1 start, the Jeffs proceeded to drop the remainder of their dual matches. All indications point to a better result this spring.

The competition for spots on the singles ladder will be stiff, as first-years Lawrence and Subramanian as well as classmate Eric Glustrom look to make their mark.

“We have a great sophomore class which should help carry our team for the next couple years, as well as two very strong freshmen. The future is definitely looking bright,” said Godsall.

Though the Jeffs lost class of 2003 members Adam Leibsohn, Brian Chin and Andy Tsai to graduation, their youth and commitment to excellence should make up for any lack of experience.

“Our lineup is very strong, and we are focused on improving on last year’s finish,” said Rettig.

Hopefully Amherst’s increased cohesiveness combined with youthful talent and one more season of collegiate experience under the belts of the classes of 2005 and 2006 will lead the Jeffs to the finish they desire.