Men's Tennis | Notebook: Three players who could swing the season
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012 03:03
The men’s tennis team’s run at a return appearance in the NESCAC Tournament begins today at Middlebury. Last spring, the Jumbos reached the conference tournament for the first time since 2005, and with a deep lineup from top to bottom, they now look poised to do at least as well this season.
Certain players will be particularly pivotal to the team’s success, whether it’s for their leadership, their adjustments to new roles, or their positions at the top of the lineup. Here is a look at three of those players:
Junior Andrew Lutz
Having played last year in the second singles spot and the first doubles pair, Lutz comes into this season expecting to control the top of the lineup for the team, at either first or second singles and most likely in the first doubles pair again.
Though he struggled in the role last season, Lutz is intent on doing a better job of putting away more formidable opponents from higher-ranked schools.
“Individually, I’m right there with a lot of those top players,” Lutz said. “And in those matches I’d like to get over that mental block and turn those chances into wins.”
Lutz has spent the offseason working on endurance and flexibility to avoid leg problems that have plagued him in his first two seasons. As one of the lineup anchors along with fellow junior Ben Barad, Lutz feels the pressure not only to stay on the court, but also to perform at a high level.
“There’s going to be more pressure at the top of the lineup. There’s a reason the coach [Jaime Kenney] has put me there,” he said. “And it’s not to lose.”
Senior Sam Laber
Laber is one of two team captains and, along with senior Morrie Bossen, leads the squad by example both on and off the court.
“On the court I try to lead by example, meaning that I try to work hard throughout the warmup and take every minute of practice very seriously,” Laber said.
Driving him is the knowledge that this is his last season here at Tufts, and he feels the need to go out on a high note as he finishes his career not only as a Jumbo, but as a competitive tennis player.
Laber will most likely be playing in the middle of the lineup in both singles and doubles, and though positions have not yet been set in stone, the co-captain already knows what he expects out of himself this season.
“I’d like to win close to 75 percent for both [singles and doubles] matches,” Laber said, emphasizing the need to stay consistent and calm throughout the season.
While Laber will not be leading the charge from the top of the lineup, his leadership will be key to keeping a relatively young Jumbo squad on track as it works toward its long-term goals.
Sophomore Matt Pataro
Laber considers Pataro a major X-factor for the Jumbos, as someone who has “lots of potential,” but needs to find consistency in his first year in the starting lineup.
Last year, Pataro played in the seventh singles position, meaning that his matches did not count toward the team score and were basically pressure-free. But after the departure of a number of players, Pataro finds himself thrust into a crucial role, likely in the fourth singles spot and with the second doubles team.
Knowing that improvement this offseason had the potential to make a bigger impact this year than it did last year, Pataro has been working on a number of facets of his game, including his return of serve and his net game in general.
“I’ve been working on my doubles game, and it’s improved a lot over the last year,” he said.
Pataro feels confident heading into the season. If he is able to hold down the middle of the lineup for the Jumbos, the depth of the team will be one of its greatest assets against NESCAC foes.
Still, that pressure doesn’t worry the sophomore as he gears up for his first spring match against Middlebury today.
“I’m not really nervous in particular,” he said. “It’s a lot more pressure on me to help the team out, but I’m pretty confident with the whole team around me.”