By Meredith Cook
Special to goholycross.com
The 2010-2011 Holy Cross men's tennis team, led by second year head coach Evan Gaudreau, aims to focus on strong competition, within the team and against its opposition. With eight returners and four newcomers filling the roster, Gaudreau knows that his returners will rise to the expectations he set from last year's campaign and use it to help the newcomers adjust and compete in the program. "I am going to focus on working with all of the players and making sure the freshman get up to speed," said Gaudreau. "My older players know enough of me and know what I expect, so when we work together, we will all be on the same page on how to have a successful team."
Leading the team for the second straight year will be the only senior on the roster, Matt Wierzel (Garden City, N.Y.). Wierzel competed in every match as the No. 1 singles player last season, marking a team best 18-11 overall record. He also won Patriot League Player of the Month honors after going unbeaten in the month of September. According to Gaudreau, Wierzel will not only have an impact on the court, but in helping him on the sideline as well. "In some ways, Matt will work with me as an assistant coach," commented Gaudreau. "I know that he will help me take care of what needs to be taken care of, especially with working with the freshmen and making sure everyone else is doing what they are supposed to be doing."
Also returning to the squad will be juniors Chris Das (Melrose, Mass.), Dan Sheehan (Huntington, N.Y.) and Ajeya Shekar (Shrewsbury, Mass.). Das looks to move into the No. 2 singles spot after playing mostly at the No. 4 position last year while Sheehan and Shekar also look to move up the ranks. Das completed his sophomore season with a 7-12 record in dual-match play, including a 6-9 record in the No. 4 slot. Four sophomores return as well, looking to compete for the top six spots in singles play. The second-year returners include sophomores Scot Brownell (Plymouth, Mass.), Tom Casavant (New Canaan, Conn.), Jeff Paadre (Sutton, Mass.) and Nick Tasca (Cranston, R.I.). Brownell made the most appearances last season, as he went 3-4 at No. 6 singles.
Gaudreau believes that a lot will be decided in the next few weeks in regards to starting positions. "Everything will work itself out after I analyze everyone's competitiveness level over the next few weeks," continued Gaudreau. And after adding four new names to his roster, he believes there will be a lot of competition in deciding who will fill the six starting singles spots and three doubles teams. "In all, everything is getting more competitive. The guys are playing more and we're seeing an improvement in the kind of kids trying out." Joining the team will be freshmen Chris Brosnan (Garden City, N.Y.), Connor McCann (Centerville, Mass.), Matt Straface (Western Springs, Ill.) and Ryan Sullivan (Medfield, Mass.), all aiming to make an immediate impact come Friday, Sept. 10, when the team opens up its 2010 fall campaign.
After the home opener, the fall continues with seven dual matches and one tournament appearance. All seven dual matches will be played on the Holy Cross Tennis Courts, something that has not been done since the courts were rebuilt in 2008. Opponents on the fall schedule include Connecticut College (Sept. 10), Merrimack (Sept. 15), Coast Guard (Sept. 21), Clark (Sept. 29), Siena (Oct. 3), Hartford (Oct. 6), Boston University (Oct. 20) and Bryant (Oct. 24). The team also plays in the annual Connecticut Invitational, held on Sept. 24-25.
Gaudreau sees the fall as a very important time for his team. "After playing all summer, the guys are fresh and ready to go full on in the fall," said Gaudreau. "I try to schedule a lot matches to keep them running and excited to compete. The fall is also a measure of how good the guys can be, playing in so much competition, that I think it raises the bar for what I will expect for the spring and Patriot League play."
All in all, one of Gaudreau's biggest goals for this season is to help build and maintain a successful tennis program. "I am definitely working on creating that nucleus and setting a bar for seasons to come," said the head coach. "After bringing in my first recruiting class, I understand everything better and will benefit from what I've learned for years to come." The competition will be fierce as well; with Gaudreau making sure his team knows that the best six guys will play. And with a full schedule and a competitive roster, the 2010-2011 men's tennis team is surely ready to hit the ground running and set the bar for teams of the future.