Ryan Golden, Staff Writer
In NCAA D-I collegiate athletics, it’s easy to dismiss the small schools, particularly in the national conversations about gigantic conferences and the stalwart large schools within them. More often than not, headlines (and now, even television channels) showcase conferences like the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten, putting them on a pedestal in the public eye compared to smaller conferences.
New Mountaineers, who are soaking up a lot of new information about their new home, may be unfamiliar with the Northeast Conference, and of course are likely more knowledgeable about these aforementioned bigger associations. And while the NEC may not come close to the ACC, for example, in titles or wins, it certainly is not lacking in quality competition. In fact, its member schools often produce talented athletes who end up reaching the national stage. This is particularly true for sports with individual competitors.
One such sport is tennis, and the Mount’s men’s and women’s tennis teams have proven to be two of the more competitive squads in the NEC. Last season, both sides advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective conference tournaments, facing stiff competition. Then men dropped their series to #3 Sacred Heart in a 4-2 decision, while the Lady Mountaineers were stymied by #2 LIU Brooklyn in their tournament appearance.
Both teams hope to re-capture their NEC Championship aspirations by picking up exactly where they left off last year, returning several veteran players while injecting youth into their line-ups.
For the men, Peter Saloman, Adam Salam, Austin Blake, and Mateo DeSomocurio headline an experienced, able group. Saloman had a successful year in the No. 2 spot, going 4-2 in finishing second in the conference among players in that position.
Blake, now an upperclassman entering his junior year, stunned the Mount fan base by making First Team All-Conference after he and former Mountaineer Mike Zabetakis went 16-3 in the #3 doubles spot. The pair went undefeated in NEC play, and scored half of the Mount’s points during the quarterfinal playoff. DeSomocurio, a sophomore this year, was fourth among singles players in the NEC with a 12-5 record.
For the women, senior Taylor D’Agostino has the best singles record among returning competitors, while sisters Jenny and Kelly Smith seem to be the best option among the doubles field.
Interestingly enough, the sidelines also feature the return of a not-so-new face with the addition of assistant coach Sam Pinchoff. Pinchoff starred as the Mount women’s #1 singles player and one of its better doubles players for the past four years before graduating last spring, and her addition should help boost the team’s energy and provide leadership.
The men’s team will open the season at the Bucknell Invitation during the weekend of September 5th-7th, with their first home appearance being the Mount St. Mary’s Invitation, taking place October 3rd-5th. Likewise the women’s team will begin their fall slate on the road at the George Mason Invitational on September 6th, their first home series being the same as the men’s team.
2014 is sure to be an exciting year for Mount tennis, with two talented rosters brimming with confidence after getting a taste of the playoff hunt last spring. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of it all, we’re looking at one of the better squads in the NEC.