BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks men’s tennis team will begin its fall schedule Friday as they travel to Philadelphia to take part in the Penn Invitational. The three-day tournament is the first of four events Lehigh will take part in. The Mountain Hawks enter the new season with new leadership as former assistant coach Wouter Hendrix takes over the head coaching reins for the Lehigh men.
Lehigh returns seven players from last year’s team that advanced to the Patriot League semifinals and also welcomes two freshmen to the squad. Two first team All-Patriot League players highlight the returning group. Junior Mark Goldberg and sophomore Ben Gilman were both honored with first team distinction and sophomore Mitchell Peterson was named to the second team.
The sophomores are two players Hendrix hopes will lead the team to a strong fall.
“While all of my players are key players, I specifically look to Benjamin Gilman and Mitchell Petersen to make the next step, Hendrix said. “They already had impressive winning records as freshmen and now is the time to solidify their status of top players in the Patriot League.”
Lehigh posted a 13-8 overall record last year and impressed in Patriot League play, finishing 4-1 and beating Army for the first time in over 20 years. After earning the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League tournament, Lehigh squared off with Army again and fell to the Black Knights. After losing just two seniors from last years team, Lehigh will hope to improve on their strong 2012 season.
Though the tennis team competes in their main season in the spring, the four events in the fall will help Hendrix look at players and help them improve for the spring.
“For the fall we look forward to playing at UPenn, as well as to our home tournament the Lehigh Invite on October 12-14,” said Hendrix. The spring will bring many exciting matches, in particular the ones with our toughest rivals Navy, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, and Lafayette.”
Goldberg played as the teams primary number one singles player a season ago and posted a 2-2 record against league foes despite battling injuries late in the year. He will look to compete for the top spot again, and if he can get back to full health, he could lead Lehigh’s Patriot League tournament run.
“Our goal is obviously to win a Patriot League Championship,” said Hendrix. “In order to do so we will have to get healthy. Mark Goldberg is still struggling with a shoulder injury and Matt Savran is fighting back problems. We need these guys at full strength if we want to win the title.”
Savran, a senior, shined in league play for the Mountain Hawks last spring. Four of his nine singles wins came against league opponents and he only suffered one loss to a Patriot League foe. Savran will serve as team captain along with classmate Andrew Krentz, the reigning Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men’s tennis.
Along with the solid core of returning players, Lehigh’s new faces are poised to challenge for playing time and provide depth for the Mountain Hawks.
“We have two freshmen, Jeremy Kochman and Ricardo Prince. They are improving steadily and will definitely be ready to help the team out when needed,” Hendrix said.
The Mountain Hawks new and returning players will all be tested immediately, as the first-ever Penn Invitational welcomes 16 competing teams. Binghamton, Brown, Buffalo, Delaware, Drexel, Iowa, Minnesota, NJIT, Norfolk State, Princeton, Saint Francis (Pa.), Saint Joseph's, Saint Peter's and Temple will all provide weekend competition for Lehigh.
Following the Penn Invitational, the Mountain Hawks will host the Lehigh Invitational at the Lewis Tennis Center beginning October 12. The three-day event is the first of two tournaments Lehigh will host, as the team also welcomes competition to Bethlehem on October 26 for a second Lehigh Fall Invitational. In between the two home tournaments, Lehigh will travel to New Haven, Conn. to take part in the ITA Regionals.
Action at the Penn Invitational begins Friday morning and runs through the championship singles finals on Sunday.
Story by Cam Omsberg.’13