By Tanner Swan, Editor In Chief
After having a bit of a disappointing start to the season, the St. John Fisher men’s tennis team picked up its first Empire 8 win of the season against Utica over the weekend. The win moves the Cardinals to a 1-1 conference record and a 2-7 overall record.
Fisher has gone 2-2 since returning from Hilton Head, South Carolina where the team went defeated against nationally respected division III tennis programs.
The 9-0 win over Utica now has Fisher focussing on getting back into the Empire 8 playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
“Getting back into the E8 play against a familiar opponent [Utica] allowed us to get back on our stride,” said senior captain Adam Moran. “Being at home, playing indoor tennis that we’re used to, definitely served us well.”
For Fisher to make the Empire 8 playoffs again, the Cardinals would have to post a conference record that is in the top four. Besides Stevens and Ithaca, the main competitors to upend Fisher from the top four will be Nazareth and a Houghton team that upset Fisher last year.
Moran admitted that the team was caught by surprise at Houghton last year, so the April 19 matchup will definitely have a lot on the line in terms of solidifying a spot in the conference playoffs.
As for Moran, a lot of his success this year has come in the first doubles pairing where himself and the other senior captain, Jake Zarzycki, have helped anchor the Cardinals in the Utica win as well as the 9-0 win over SUNY Oswego.
“He was on the same recruiting trip as me four years ago,” he reminisced. “We’ve had a lot of experience playing together and I think that has really translated to some nice on-court chemistry.”
Kevin Kulawiec is the Cardinals best singles player earning Empire 8 Player of the Week earlier this season, but a toe injury withheld him from the Utica contest. Having him at full strength as conference play continues will be crucial for the team’s success.
On a side note, this year the Empire 8 has implemented a no-advantage scoring rule. So instead of it being an advantage following a deuce, whoever wins the point on a deuce, wins the single game within a match. The rule was made to speed up matches, but the integrity of the match has been a criticism of the new change.
Fisher will face only Empire 8 opponents for the rest of the season with the next match against the Ithaca Bombers. The Bombers have clearly been the second best team in the conference behind Stevens for a number of years, so it should prove to be a challenging mid-season test for the Cardinals.
The match will be at Ithaca on Friday at 4 p.m. The team will then quickly turn around to face Hartwick at its home facility, the Mendon Racquet Club, on Saturday at 1 p.m.