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Men's Tennis Team Comes Home with Fifth Place

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - While men's tennis coach Marc Vecchiolla still believes in his heart they could have taken home the trophy, the men's tennis team had to settle for fifth place at the National Junior College Athletic Association Div. III Tennis Tournament, held May 10-14 in Plano, TX.

The competition was the best that Vecchiolla has seen and the teams that finished first and second hailed from MCCC's own Region 19. "We were as talented and motivated as any team there. We definitely could have finished first if we had played to our potential. The competition was just too good for anything less than our best performance," he said, noting that in the tournament point system, a few missed opportunities can make a key difference in the outcome.

"I'm really proud of our guys. They competed hard. It's just the nature of sports - some days you win; some days you lose; some days it rains," Vecchiolla said.

Only no. 1 doubles partners Matt Pierson and Jason Bielski experienced the thrill of ultimate victory, winning the national title in three sets over Svenson/Wolski from Brookdale CC. Vecchiolla notes that after a bye in the first round, each of Bielski and Pierson's subsequent matches were extremely challenging. "Each round went to three sets," Vecchiolla said. "It was highly competitive and very close."

There were many "almost" moments. No. 2 Jason Bielski reached the final in the highly competitive tournament. "Bielski's was a huge accomplishment," Vecchiolla said.

Courtside, back row from left, Sherri Krummel, Travis McCaughan, Asst. Coach Barbara Pleva, Brendan Belluscio, Joon Lee, Jason Bielski, Jason Ciaccio, Matt Romano and Dave Wilkes; front row, Ben Pinter, Coach Marc Vecchiolla, Matt Pierson, Juan Ramirez and Asst. Coach Ralph Bencivengo.

At banquet, standing from left, Brendan Belluscio, Matt Pierson, Jason Bielski, Coach Marc Vecchiolla, Asst. Coaches Ralph Bencivengo and Barbara Pleva; seated from left, Matt Romano, Jason Ciaccio, Travis McCaughan, Ben Pinter, Juan Ramirez, Joon Lee, and Dave Wilkes.

At no. 4 singles Juan Ramirez won his consolation tournament and no. 5 Ben Pinter made it to the tournament's main draw semi-final round before losing in three close sets. No. 3 Travis McGaughan lost his consolation final match in three sets and no. 3 doubles partners Ramirez and Matt Romano won their consolation tournament.

According to Vecchiolla, his teams usually try to take in a few sights while at nationals. Not this year. "We had long days at the courts, lasting 10 to 12 hours," he said. Players rose each morning at 5:30 a.m., were on the court by 7:10 a.m, and started matches by 8. "The matches were spread out, and the majority of them went to three sets."

With a total of 20 points, Mercer was fifth after Gloucester, the national champs with 29.5, Brookdale with 27.5, Oxford College (GA) with 27, and Rock Valley College (IL) with 21.5. Pierson and Bielski were named All-Americans. Bielski was also named an Academic All-American and another player, Brendan Belluscio, was named a Distinguished Academic All-American. Vecchiolla was assisted this season by Ralph Bencivengo and Barb Pleva.

Vecchiolla notes that Region 19 will be competitive for years to come. "Gloucester and Brookdale are very well coached. We will have our hands full. I believe our region is a level ahead of the rest."

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