GW Men's Tennis in Search of Third Straight A-10 Title in 2013
Jan. 23, 2013
WASHINGTON - Following its second straight Atlantic 10 Championship and second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, the George Washington men's tennis team is prepared to crack the national rankings this season as the Colonials open their competitive spring campaign against No. 70 Cornell on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Aiming for its third conference title in as many years, GW welcomes Ivy League foe Cornell - which is ranked the No. 70 program in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) - to the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., for a 5:30 p.m. match. GW enters the match looking to open its spring slate with a victory for the second straight year after opening 2011-12 with a 4-3 win at Old Dominion.
Despite matching up in singles or doubles play in various tournaments over the past few fall seasons, the Colonials and the Big Red have not met in a dual match since 2009-10 when Cornell came away with a 7-0 victory on its home court. While Saturday's match serves as GW's season-opener, Cornell opened the season with a 4-3 win at Penn State on Sunday, Jan. 20. The Big Red claimed victories at the Nos. 2, 5 and 6 singles positions while also earning the doubles point.
"We are really looking forward to getting the season started and showing everyone what this team is capable of," seventh-year head coach and two-time reigning Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Greg Munoz said. "This is a very talented team full of hard workers. We faced some injuries last season that hindered us a bit but this year we are full of depth and are determined to compete in every match."
Click here for directions to the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va.
2013 GW MEN'S TENNIS SEASON PREVIEW
After claiming their second league crown in two seasons, and third overall, Coach Munoz has high expectations for the Buff and Blue this spring. With seven nationally ranked opponents on their schedule, Coach Munoz anticipates the Colonials will earn a spot on the ITA rankings by season's end.
GW is coming off an impressive fall campaign, headlined by nine upsets over nationally ranked opponents - seven in singles and two in doubles - at the prestigious UVA Ranked +1 Invitational and the ITA/D'Novo All-American Championships. For their efforts throughout the fall, sophomore Francisco Dias and junior transfer Nikita Fomin have debuted at Nos. 76 and 96, respectively, on the first Campbell/ITA Division I Men's National Singles Rankings of the season, marking the first time in Coach Munoz's tenure that the Colonials entered the spring with two nationally ranked top-100 players.
In addition to owning rankings on the national scale, Dias is slated as the No. 10 singles player in the Atlantic Region. Fomin is positioned No. 11 in singles and he and doubles partner freshman Danil Zelenkov were dubbed the No. 9 pair in the Atlantic Region.
"The fall season established what we can do on a national level," said Coach Munoz. "We put together the toughest spring schedule in my career and it will allow us several opportunities to improve not only our singles and doubles rankings, but our team ranking as a whole."
Following the 2011-12 season in which GW posted an overall record of 17-8 and a 3-2 conference mark, the Colonials graduated seniors Richard Blumenfeld and Ugur Atalay, who was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team as well as team MVP. Coach Munoz, however, feels the shoes can be filled as GW returns Dias and classmate Mike Kachkar, juniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen and seniors Leonardo Lapentti and Alexander van Gils to the lineup. GW also welcomes Fomin, fellow junior transfer Sinan Ipeker, and freshmen Kevin Kovacs and Zelenkov.
Dias - who entered the fall season as the No. 89 player in the country on the ITA National Preseason Rankings - helped the Colonials to their second straight A-10 title as their top singles and doubles competitor last spring. After his notable freshman campaign, the Lisbon, Portugal, native became the first-ever Atlantic 10 men's tennis student-athlete to earn both the Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie Performer awards. In addition, he also earned a spot on the A-10 All-Conference First Team and was tabbed the A-10 Rookie Performer of the Week a league-high four times.
"It is a challenge for a freshman to not only adjust to life as an NCAA Division I student-athlete, but to also handle the pressure of carrying the team as the No. 1 player," Coach Munoz said. "Francisco had a great rookie season and now has one year under his belt and he continues to get better every day. He is a great competitor he knows what the team needs to focus on to achieve our goals."
Van Gils, who will serve as a co-captain alongside Dias, was named to the A-10 All-Conference First Team last season as he competed mainly at the No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles positions. While working toward a singles mark of 17-10 and a doubles record of 22-7 last season, van Gils helped GW to its second straight league championship by going undefeated throughout the tournament in No. 3 singles play.
"Alex is a great leader and helps push the team both on and off the court," said Coach Munoz. "I have a lot of confidence that he will have a great season in singles and as a part of our top doubles team."
A second team all-conference honoree one year ago, Thomsen will most likely compete at the top doubles spot with van Gils. The tandem won their first five doubles matches last season in addition to posting a nine-match winning streak that spanned from March 18-April 13.
Kachkar, Lapentti and Svensson will all provide depth to the Colonials' lineup as upperclassmen this spring. Lapentti - who transferred to GW after two years at Virginia Tech - posted a singles record of 14-8 as he competed mainly at the No. 4 spot. Svensson competed primarily at No. 5 singles last year, and despite being sick, stepped up in the A-10 Championship match to earn a fifth-flight victory over Xavier's Michael Moe. Kachkar filled more of a reserve role for the Buff and Blue last season as he posted an overall No. 6 singles record of 3-1.
"We relied on Leo and Viktor a lot last season and they really stepped up to the plate," Coach Munoz said. "They are hard workers and they do a fantastic job pushing everyone in practice and in matches. This is a team of leaders and though some may be more vocal than others, their efforts on the court are visible."
Highlighting the slew of newcomers, Fomin transferred to GW following a two-year stint at Stony Brook where he was dubbed the 2011 America East Rookie of the Year and named to the conference's first team for both singles and doubles one season ago. A native of Moscow, Russia, Fomin suited up in Buff and Blue for the first time this fall and earned three singles upset victories over nationally ranked opponents, in addition to teaming up with Zelenkov for a doubles upset. Zelenkov, who comes to GW from Skopje, Macedonia, entered his freshman campaign as the No. 1,304 player in the world according to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
"Nikita and Danil played really well this fall and I am looking forward to both their singles and doubles performances this spring," said Coach Munoz. "As a doubles team they own a regional ranking and I expect them to continue to improve and break into the national rankings."
Rounding out the Colonials' newcomers are Ipeker, who comes to GW this spring after two-and-a-half seasons at Lafayette College, and Kovacs.
"Our expectations this season are to compete at a high level and earn the best national team ranking in school history," Coach Munoz said. "I believe this team can crack the top 75 this season and we have the opportunity to prove ourselves with the competitive schedule we've put together."
The Colonials have put together a challenging 2013 spring schedule that features seven nationally-ranked opponents and three NCAA participants in 19 matches.
GW hosts five matches this spring, including three at the outdoor GW Tennis Center and one each at the indoor Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., and the Regency Sport and Health Club in McClean, Va., which serve as the Colonials' home courts during the winter months. GW will face 13 opponents on the road, including all five A-10 matches against Temple (3/02), Fordham (3/03), Richmond (3/23), No. 31 VCU (3/24) and Charlotte (4/12).
"The Atlantic 10 is such a strong conference that I don't think teams look at us as the one to beat," said Coach Munoz. "With teams like Charlotte, VCU and Xavier, every conference match is going to be tough and it's going to be a battle. That is what makes good tennis and we're excited to face some talented opponents."
Prior to GW's two-straight crowns, Xavier had won three straight conference championships from 2008-10, and the two squads have met in the title match for the third time in as many years. Newcomer VCU is the lone conference member to own a national ranking as the Rams are currently the No. 31 team in the country.
The Buff and Blue will also spend just over a week in California for Spring Break competing at the Calabasas Open, a United States Tennis Association (USTA) Futures event, in addition to dual matches at No. 68 UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.
For the full release on the Colonials' 2013 spring schedule, please click here.