BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s tennis team has made impressive strides over the last two seasons. In 2011 the Mountain Hawks advanced to the Patriot League tournament final for the first time in school history. Last year Lehigh posted a historic win over Army and finished second in the regular season standings.
With the building success of previous seasons, Lehigh enters the 2013 campaign with heightened expectations. Former assistant coach Wouter Hendrix takes over as the head man following a summertime restructuring of Lehigh’s tennis programs. Hendrix believes the talent and structure are in place for the Mountain Hawks to make a run at a Patriot League crown.
Lehigh is coming off a 13-8 season in 2012 that included a 4-1 Patriot League record. The Mountain Hawks enter 2013 with a feeling that they belong among the top teams in the league, but also recognize they must continue to work to peak at the end of the season.
“We have a very talented group,” said Hendrix. “We’ve established ourselves as a top-three team in the Patriot League, which is not an easy feat, especially if you consider the resources that Army and Navy have. We know what it takes to win a Championship.
Hendrix continued, “First, we have to be in great shape. Second, we have to peak at the right time. The reason why we lost year is because we peaked a little too quickly and played our best tennis midway through the season and at the end we came up a little too short. Our main goal is to be in the top three in the Patriot League and anything we can do from there on is a bonus but it’s definitely not unrealistic.”
For leadership, Hendrix will lean on senior co-captains Andrew Krentz and Matt Savran, a pair of four-year contributors who will provide experience and depth at the bottom of the singles lineup. Savran came on strong at the end of last season with a 4-1 singles mark against league opponents, while Krentz has been steady and is the reigning Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“Andrew and Matt have been terrific,” Hendrix said. “They’ve provided great leadership. They’ve gone through all the stages of Lehigh’s Leadership Program. They’ve really mentored the freshman and the sophomores so that everyone’s on the same page and there’s a good culture. I’ll be sad to see them go because I’ve worked with them for four years as an assistant so we started around the same time.”
At the top of the lineup, Lehigh features a solid core with junior Mark Goldberg and sophomores Ben Gilman and Mitchell Petersen. A first time All-Patriot League selection, Goldberg has been battling through injuries in the fall and will look to regain the form that saw him with 17 singles matches as a freshman.
Gilman was Lehigh’s top performer a year ago as he burst onto the scene with a 15-3 singles record and 12 doubles wins en route to first team All-Patriot League honors. Petersen also had 13 wins as a freshman and was as second team All-League selection.
“They’re a very reliable group at the top,” Hendrix said of the trio. “Developing them as doubles players will be our next step. They’re just so solid and consistent. They’re a very reliable group.”
Also in the mix for Lehigh are junior Timur Chernykh, who saw significant doubles time in 2012, and sophomore DJ Goldblum, who manned the No. 6 singles spot last year.
Hendrix has also added talented freshmen Jeremy Kochman and Ricardo Prince to the mix.
Lehigh’s spring schedule begins Saturday when the Mountain Hawks host Drexel at 2 p.m. at the Lewis Tennis Center. The match kicks off a stretch of eight out of nine matches that will be played at home, with the exception being a February 2 match at Penn State.
The Mountain Hawks have also beefed up their spring break schedule, with four matches on the slate against Florida Tech, Fairfield, Marquette and Bethune-Cookman, over three days.
“Last year we went for a weekend and now we’re going for a week,” Hendrix said. “So we’ll play outdoor tennis for the whole week in early March and I think that will put us in the right position to deliver at the end. The trip is being made possible by our alumni who donated so we’re really thankful to be able to do that.”
Patriot League play begins when Lehigh meets Holy Cross and Army at West Point, N.Y. March 23-24, while the Patriot League tournament will take place April 19-21 in Hamilton, N.Y.
Saturday’s Lehigh-Drexel match is set for a 2 p.m. start from the Lewis Tennis Center. The Mountain Hawks swept the Dragons by a 7-0 score last season.