NORTON, Mass. - Fresh off a season where the Wheaton College men's tennis team recorded its most victories in five years while advancing to the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament title match for the first time in three seasons, 22nd-year head coach Lynn Miller believes her current squad can equal that showing.
"The potential to have similar results is definitely there," said the veteran coach, who returns four of six starters from a year ago. "In the last two weeks, I like what I've seen in practice. They are at least where they were last season if not a little bit ahead."
After a 2-2 start during the 2010 spring, the Lyons ripped off 11 wins over their next 12 matches before finishing the year with a 14-5 mark while advancing to their fifth NEWMAC Tournament championship match. Wheaton, which went 4-1 in league play during the regular season, fell to conference power Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in its final contest.
Miller is excited about her team's ability to play smart tennis. "It's a hard sell to get players to understand and buy into the concept of constructing a point, mixing things up and not playing to opponents strengths," said Miller. "I'm noticing the men using different tactics of what's appropriate for the opponents they're facing. It's something I believe we're going to see more of this year."
With a regional ranking of 20th according to the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll, Wheaton enters the spring with half of its 10-member roster hailing from the senior class, including three of which are returning all-conference players.
Senior Harry Altman (Riverdale, N.Y./The Dwight School) earned all-league honors in both singles and doubles for the second straight season in 2010. From the sixth singles position, Altman recorded a 13-4 record, including 4-1 in league play. He is currently slotted to play at number five this season.
Altman and senior Brian Krantz (Milford, Conn./Joseph A. Foran) sided for their second straight doubles league accolade, as the tandem went 13-4 at three a year ago. Krantz, who Miller deems the team's most improved player, will likely make the jump from fifth singles to the squad's ace. Krantz posted a 13-4 record at number five in 2010.
A first-time all-league honoree last year, senior Gregory Poulin (Boxboro, Mass./Home Schooled) notched 10 wins at second doubles to earn the award. He also finished with seven singles triumphs. Poulin is slated to play third singles this spring.
The team's lone junior in Neall Oliver (Portland, Maine/Deering) won 11 singles matches from the top spot and nine double victories at number one. After playing primarily as the team's ace the last two years, Oliver is targeted to play second singles this spring.
Sophomores Kyle Kiernan (Topsfield, Mass./Masconomet Regional) and Dennis Scarpa (Cheshire, Conn./Xavier) round out the group of returners. Scarpa could see time in singles and doubles matches, while Kiernan will play exhibition.
Miller replaced a pair of graduates with two newcomers in freshmen Dan Sharon (Santa Monica, Calif./Brentwood School) and Ned Terrace (Chappaqua, N.Y./Horace Greeley). Both are positioned to start this year, with Sharon in the fourth spot and Terrace at number six.
For doubles pairings, Krantz and Oliver are slotted at the top, while the second and third positions could see any combination of Altman, Poulin, Scarpa, Sharon and Terrace.
The Lyons kick off their spring season earlier than they ever have before with a home match this Saturday against Emerson College. Wheaton then heads to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for its annual spring trip beginning on Sunday, March 13.