By NICK NELSON
The 2008 season has begun with plenty of promise for the University of Mary Washington men’s tennis team. A resounding 5 to 2 victory against University of Richmond last Saturday has left the squad filled with optimism about the remainder of a very competitive schedule and eyeing yet another conference championship, national ranking and NCAA tournament bid.
Mary Washington came into Saturday’s season opener ranked number twelve in the nation, playing a team they had never beaten, the Division I Richmond Spiders.
“I thought this was an exciting match for our team,” UMW junior John James said. “If we were able to beat a team of such high quality in the beginning, we’re going to be able to beat even better teams as the season progresses.”
In singles play, James and teammate Jason Dunn both were victorious in straight sets. Freshman Bryce Parrish and senior Eddie Carver were also able to pull out victories, while junior Randy Loden and sophomore Evan Goff unfortunately fell in their matches.
Doubles play was equally successful for the Eagle squad. Loden and freshman Kaz Murata won 8-2, though Goff and Parrish were defeated 8-3. James and Sophomore Zach Detweiler finished the doubles competition with suspenseful form but were able to pull out a 9-7 victory.
Dunn echoed the optimism with his comments on the team’s performance.
“[Richmond is] D-1 and came into the match expecting to win, but we came out ready to play and the results were pretty one-sided,” he said. “They were slightly weaker from previous years, but I think we came in stronger also.”
Head Coach Todd Helbling was positive about the success and progress his team has shown after the first match of the season.
“Beating Richmond was a great way to start the season. They are a solid team and our guys showed excellent focus, energy and belief,”
Helbling said. “Of course there are plenty of areas to improve in, but [the match was] a positive first step.”
Helbling continued by saying, “the match was an indicator that when we are focused and determined, we are going to come out on top against an evenly matched team way more often than we will lose.”
Saturday’s match gave a glimpse into the future, as the team will be competing against Division I, II and III teams such as Longwood, George Mason, Johns Hopkins and Salisbury.
The Eagles bring a tradition of excellence into the 2007-2008 season, having won their eighth Capital Athletic Conference title in as many years last season along with advancing to the NCAA tournament for the each year. During the eight-season streak of success, the Eagles finished each season with a top-25 national ranking.
The 2006-2007 season also saw James named Capital Athletic Conference player of the year and joined Loden, Carver, senior Jon Pollak, Dunn and Goff on the all-conference singles team, while helping out Detweiler, Loden and Pollak on the conference doubles team. Under previous coach Roy Gordon, the Eagles won the conference in five consecutive seasons from 1990 to 1995.
“We play many D-I individuals and teams a year, so playing a division one school does not bother us at all,” Helbling said. “Richmond is a solid team with good players.”
James agreed with his coach’s sentiments. “We beat a team we’d never beaten before in our first match of the season. I think it is especially important because usually the first match is tough,” he said. “We haven’t played in a while and we are not yet at our peak. Our team has a lot of confidence and already we are looking forward to a great season,” he added of his team’s success.
The Eagles will take the court again Feb. 17 at home in matches against Longwood University and George Mason University, starting at 2 p.m. on the indoor courts.