Men’s tennis opens strong at Bloomsburg

Courtney Scrib

After two days of solid performances and close matches, the men’s tennis team returned from last weekend’s Bloomsburg Invitational feeling optimistic about the upcoming season. Along with Villanova and Bloomsburg, SUNY Binghampton and Bucknell participated in the tournament. Each team played eight singles and four doubles matches.

“As a team, we played very well for our first tournament of the season,” junior Aaron Kusza said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction for future tournaments and season matches.”

Kusza played No. 1 singles and defeated his Bloomsburg opponent in three sets (6-3, 3-6, 1-0) but lost two tight matches to Binghampton and Bucknell. No. 3 singles player and fellow junior Ricardo Baraldi likewise defeated Bloomsburg and lost two closely contested matches to Binghampton and Bucknell.

In other singles matches, senior captain Lukas Kaster had a 2-0 record with a significant win at No. 6 singles versus Bucknell, and acknowledged the importance of early tournaments. “As in any sport, the beginning of the season is a time to readjust and get your game in order.” Sophomore Carl Fenzl proved unbeatable in his No. 6 singles match against Binghampton.

The Wildcats also showed strong performances in doubles play. The good chemistry between Kusza and senior John Toppel helped the No. 1 doubles team win their first match against Bucknell (8-5) and play competitive matches against Bloom and Binghampton. No. 2 doubles team of Baraldi and Kaster were also victorious over Bucknell.

“The doubles went better than expected considering none of [the] combinations had competed together,” head coach Bob Batman said.

This weekend’s invitational marked first collegiate appearances by several of the team’s underclassmen, including freshmen Alex Villalobos and David Harring and sophomore Angel Rubio. Villalobos, the No. 4 singles player, defeated Bucknell and put forth a great effort against Bloomsburg, only to lose in a third set tiebreaker. Harring was 2-1, splitting two matches at No. 7 singles and defeating Bucknell at No. 5 singles. Villalobos and Rubio were partnered up for the No. 3 doubles team and turned in an impressive undefeated 2-0 record with wins over Bucknell and Bloomsburg.

“The young guys showed quickly they can adjust to the college game and will provide our team with the support that we will need throughout the upcoming season,” Kaster said.

Batman was also impressed by the team’s rookies. “We have a young and relatively inexperienced squad and everyone responded to the challenges of either playing up in the lineup [Kusza, Toppel, Baraldi] or competing for the fist time as a Villanova Wildcat [Villalobos, Rubio, Harring],”

Determined to claim a Big East Tournament position, the team entered the season focused on improving its game and filling the gaps left by departing seniors and top ranking singles players, Brad Adams and Ryan Devine.

“Hopefully, [the Bloomsburg Invitational] will set the bar high at the beginning of the year and provide a challenge for the team to strive to raise the bar even higher by continuing to improve,” Batman said.

Next Tuesday the team travels to Millersville for a second serving of tough competition and outstanding play.