Following a spring where men’s tennis missed its first Atlantic 10 championship final in seven years, players said they are using the fall slate to fine tune their skills before the regular season.
Although games during this time of the year don’t affect the team’s record, senior Christos Hadjigeorgiou said the recent tournaments have been important preparation in the offseason.
“It’s not the same to just practice here or even just have friendly matches with your teammates,” he said. “Being in the spirit of an actual match against opponents of other universities, you feel the realistic approach of actually playing.”
Last week, the Colonials traveled to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament – the second of their three fall events – along with representatives from 23 other schools in Lynchburg, Va.
The team posted a 6-1 record on their first day of singles competition, but by the end of day two, all six winners had exited within the round of 64.
On the doubles side, partners sophomore Jakub Behun and senior Chris Reynolds made it through the quarterfinal only to be stopped by junior Aziz Kijametovic and sophomore Francois Musitelli of Old Dominion, with a final score of 8–6.
Although the team could have been discouraged by their failure to make it further into the tournament, first-year assistant coach Damian Farinola said it was instead a learning experience.
“We try and work on our games and develop certain styles of play,” Farinola said. “Then we utilize these tournaments to see if we can implement what we’ve done in practices into the matches.”
The Colonials dominated at the Joe Hunt Invitational in late September, leaving with an A Flight doubles title in which Hadjigeorgiou and fellow senior Chris Fletcher outplayed teammates Behun and Reynolds to win 6–3 in an all-GW final.
In the singles bracket, Hadjigeorgiou put together a finals campaign that concluded with a runner-up finish in which he fell 6–3, 6–3 to sophomore Juan Araoz of Hampton University.
Players said they are trying to improve their individual areas of weakness during the fall action. Sophomore William Tutecky, who went 11-7 in his freshman season, said he is concentrating on keeping up the pressure during his matches.
“I think what I’m focusing on the most is developing my game to be more aggressive with my serving and my forehand,” Tutecky said. “I’m transitioning from a more defensive to a more aggressive player in general.”
Seasoned veteran Hadjigeorgiou instead pointed to the team’s mentality as an avenue for improvement in one of the game’s most fundamental areas.
“The mental part of the game is most important in tennis,” Hadjigeorgiou said. “Being able to fight adversity while playing opponents and being able to concentrate and remember what the coach told you.”
But one thing the Colonials can’t change is how they will enter the spring season this year without the help of 2017 graduate Julius Tverijonas, their former nationally ranked star who helped propel them to three straight A-10 titles.
Instead, they will look to their four seniors, a group that tallied a combined 55-32 winning record last season, to lead the team.
“We’ve got some extremely good leaders on the team,” Farinola said. “Some of the seniors are very good at keeping the group together and on top of the group when things don’t go well, they aren’t afraid and speak up.”
This leadership and guidance from the returning players has contributed to a team chemistry that is echoed by the underclassmen, including the team’s only freshman.
First-year player and Istanbul, Turkey native Kaan Tuna joins the team already sharing at least one commonality with his teammates, because like the majority of the team, he comes from abroad.
The team consists of only nine players, with six being international. Farinola said this gives the roster a unique perspective on how to approach collegiate tennis.
“There are just so many different people coming from different backgrounds, and they have different playing styles,” Farinola said. “To get better you have got to get outside the box and hit with people from different countries.”
The Colonials will compete in their last fall tournament, the Dick Vitale Invitational, in Sarasota, Fla. next weekend.