By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
The NCAA Division III (D-III) Tournament was always the goal for the men’s tennis team. After their disappointing loss to North Carolina Wesleyan College, the Lions were faced with the harsh reality that their season’s entire purpose was reduced to nothing more than a pipe dream. However, their shutout wins against Lafayette College and Christopher Newport University gave the College one final spark of hope: If they won against Ursinus College and Vassar College, they would be in position to qualify for NCAAs.
On Tuesday, April 19, the Lions did just that, as they kept their season alive with a shutout win over Ursinus College. With a shot of cementing their case for an NCAA Tournament berth, the Lions (9-5) extended their winning streak to four games on Wednesday, April 20, when they beat Vassar College, 6-3.
“It’s been a very positive year,” head coach Scott Dicheck said. “Even when we’ve had some tough losses, we fought back. You learn a lot from winning and losing and I think these guys have done just that.”
The Lions were without junior Jack August — who was sidelined due to illness — in their matchup with the Ursinus Bears. Senior Jason Prezant stepped into August’s shoes in doubles and was paired with junior Mike Stanley. The first-time duo did not miss a beat, as they won court two, 8-4.
Senior Pierce Cooper and freshman Mitchel Sanders extended their winning streak to six. They sported a commanding 10-1 doubles record. On court three, freshmen Matt Puig and Tim Gavornik continued their success with an 8-4 win of their own.
Leading 3-0, the Lions would not relent. A singles lineup of four freshmen, sophomore Chris D’Agostino and Cooper combined to shutout the Bears. They did not drop a single set in the entire match.
“We had just come off our lowest moment in the season,” Dicheck said. “It says a lot about the guys to bounce back and to get the wins. We knew once we started getting momentum, it could really take over. That’s just what happened.”
According to Dicheck, the Lions needed to beat Vassar College on Wednesday to have any chance at NCAAs. August — still battling an illness — returned to the doubled competition with Stanley, his partner.
“He gave it a go in doubles, but he was not going to play singles,” Dicheck said. “That’s what happens this time of year.”
The Lions won courts two and three, while August and Stanley dropped their matchup, 8-4.
As the College nursed a 2-1 lead, Cooper and Sanders won their singles matches in straight sets. With the chance to clinch a Lions win — and the playoff implications that accompanied said win — Stanley battled through a second-set tiebreaker. With the 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) win, the Lions had finally met their season’s goal.
With the win already clinched, the Lions dropped courts four and five, which made the final score 6-3 in favor of the Lions.
“We beat a lot of really good teams that we needed to beat,” Dicheck said. “At this point, we’re very optimistic that we’re gonna make it. We have two matches this week. I think we should be in good shape.”
The College faces off against Stevens University on Monday, April 25. Their final regular season match will be against Kutztown University on Wednesday, April 27.
Dicheck and his team couldn’t happier about being in the hunt.
“We’re just ecstatic,” he said. “The guys really have put ourselves in a very good position for NCAAs.”