BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s tennis team will open its 2012 season this Saturday at Penn State. The team is coming off a strong 2011 season in which it finished with a 15-7 record and advanced to the Patriot League Championship match for the first time in school history. The Mountain Hawks will look to replace its top two players from last season in Troy List and Collin Laffey, who both graduated. Both were named to the All-Patriot League team.
Entering his 23rd season at the helm, head coach Dave Shook is not letting the team’s graduation losses lower his expectations. With All-League player Mark Goldberg, a sophomore, returning and a talented freshman class, Shook is excited about the upcoming season.
“We obviously lost a lot of production in Troy and Collin,” Shook said. “But we’ll be looking for Mark and Matt (Savran) to step up and take the place of those two. And I know they’re very capable of doing it.”
Goldberg enjoyed a spectacular freshman season. Named to the All-Patriot League second team, he manned the No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles spots. The Ohio native registered a 17-2 record and was 8-0 in Patriot League play.
“Mark will be the heir apparent to the top singles spot,” Shook said. “He’s improved this offseason and has been playing smarter. We’ll be looking for a lot from him.”
Savran, a junior, manned the No.3 singles spot last season in route to posting a 13-8 record. Savran will man the other top singles spot this season.
“Matt has been a solid pressure player for us,” Shook said. “If healthy, he’s a formidable player in this league.”
Rounding out the veteran returners are senior Edgars Rauza, junior Andrew Krentz, and sophomore Timur Chernykh.
The team’s lone senior, Rauza has impressed Shook with his leadership skills. Rauza will look to move up in the singles lineup and compete for more playing time this season.
Manning the No.3 doubles spot last season, Krentz posted an impressive 7-2 record and was 4-1 in Patriot League play. Shook said Krentz has played outstanding this offseason and is one of the team’s main leadership catalysts.
Chernykh has been a solid player for the team throughout his career and will be looked upon to play a bigger role this season.
“We’re going to need all eight players to step up and play to the best of their abilities this season,” Shook said. “The main key is for our five veterans to continuously help our three freshmen transition smoothly into the knick of things.”
As for the three freshmen, Shook has been impressed with their play this offseason. Mitchell Petersen and Ben Gilman were highly ranked coming out of high school. Shook is expecting both to make an immediate impact in singles and doubles play. Daniel Goldblum has impressed Shook in showing a lot of heart in his play this offseason.
“We’re expecting all three freshmen to contribute and help fill the void left by our graduating losses,” Shook said. “Based on my observances thus far, all three will help.”
After the match against Penn State, the team will head home for nine consecutive matches at the Lewis Tennis Center. They won’t hit the road again until early march when they’ll travel to Georgetown. Patriot League play opens on April 1 against Navy, in a rematch of last year’s marathon Patriot League semifinal, which will start a string of five consecutive league matches to end the regular season.
“Many of our early matches will be against full scholarship teams which is a tough way to open the season,” Shook said. “But the positive is that the guys will be well-prepared when they open league play.”
Saturday’s Lehigh-Penn State match is set for a 3 p.m. start from University Park, Pa.
Story by Antoine Williams ‘12