MEDFORD - Though the Jumbos played in a few matches and tournaments during the fall season, the new era for the Tufts men's tennis team truly begins with the spring season set to start on Friday with a NESCAC match at ninth-ranked Middlebury College.
Tufts head coach Jaime Kenney was hired last August to help the Jumbos get back to being one of the top teams in the NESCAC and earn NCAA Tournament berths. The excitement surrounding the new direction of the team was obvious in a spirited preseason that has the squad ready to take on a challenging first week of matches.
|Austin Blau is one of a few
returning starters to the Tufts line-up
In addition to the trip to Middlebury, the Jumbos will also play five matches against quality competition during spring break in Hilton Head, South Carolina. During this opening week of play, the starting line-up will come together. Though it's a new era for Tufts tennis, the Jumbo roster boasts plenty of experience. The team's 11 wins last season were the most since 1995-96. Depth, experience and confidence look to be team strengths this spring.
Coach Kenney has plenty of veterans to rely upon for top-of-the-singles-order duty. Senior co-captain Sam Laber (Cincinnati, OH) and juniors Ben Barad (San Rafael, CA) Andrew Lutz (Baltimore, MD) have started for the Jumbos since their freshman seasons. Lutz played at #1 in all three dual matches during the fall, while Barad was the #2 each time. Sophomore Austin Blau (East Hills, NY) also has starting experience in the top three singles spots.
The competition for the other singles jobs also features primarily experienced players. Senior co-captain Morrie Bossen (Chicago, I), juniors Andrew McHugh (Edgartown, MA), Jeff Taylor (Framingham, MA) and Mark Westerfield (Menlo Park, CA), sophomores Jake Lazarus (Louisville, KY), Zach Ladwig (Chelmsford, MA) and Matt Pataro (Coral Gables, FL) and freshman Brian Tan (Orinda, CA) all have an opportunity to contribue.
Among the doubles possibilities, Bossen and Westerfield were regular starters at the #2 spot for the Jumbos last season. They had wins over pairs from NESCAC foes Bates, Colby and Connecticut College last season. Lutz and Laber were both doubles starters a year ago, but their partners are no longer with the team. Both figure to be there again in new pairings. Lutz and Barad have played together before, though not ofen. Blau, Pataro and Tan could work their way onto starting teams.
With several players returning from the best Tufts team in 15 years, and the positive vibes running through the program with Coach Kenney, the Jumbos look to top last year's performance. In a best-case scenario, they'd like to be the first Jumbo squad to be selected for the NCAA's since back-to-back Jumbo national berths in 2002 and 2003.