With a 10-0
record by mid-April, it was clear that the men's tennis team was
going places this year - perhaps as far as the national tournament
in Plano, Texas. Under new Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, who has coached
MCCC women's tennis for 11 seasons, the men did indeed prove dominant,
winning match after match by large margins. By the end of the regular
season, this talented, focused squad had tallied a 12-2 record and
headed for the Region 19 Tournament, held April 25-27 at Mercer
County Park, hoping to take the crown.
co-captain Marc Nichols at the no. 1 position, the entire team came
through. By day two of the tournament, Mercer dominated the action,
as all six singles players and two of three doubles teams advanced
to the finals. The Vikings won five of their eight final matches,
including a 6-1, 6-1 victory by Nichols; a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory
by co-captain Ozcan Dalgic at no. 3; and a 6-1, 6-4 victory by Jason
Bielski at no. 5. In doubles action, Drew Holsman and Nichols teamed
for a 6-3, 6-2 win at no. 1, while Bielski and Luis Gutierrez won
6-2, 6-2 at no. 2. The singles roster also included Gutierrez at
no. 2, Holsman at no. 4, Joon Lee at no. 6, Ken Newman at no. 7
and Daisuke Katsumat at no. 8.
The trip to the NJCAA Championship Tournament in Plano, TX, May
10-16 was a high point for all of Mercer's players, but only Marc
Nichols at no. 1 singles came home with a trophy. (See feature story
this page.) The Vikings got off to a solid start in the first round,
with Nichols, Dalgic, Bielski and Lee winning their singles matches,
and Dalgic and Newman winning at no. 3 doubles. Dalgic, Bielski
and Lee advanced to the semifinals before being defeated and the
Vikings collected 16 points for a fifth place finish out of 11 teams.
Vecchiolla is proud of his players' achievements this season, particularly
at the nationals, where they earned twice as many points as last
year's squad (which qualified for the tournament after finishing
second in the region). He notes that coaching the no. 1 singles
player in the country was thrilling, and he credits Nichols with
raising the bar for the entire team. He also describes the unusual
experience of coaching Ken Newman, a 70-year-old returning student
- "probably a record in terms of age" - and recalls the
poignant moment after Newman and Dalgic won their quarterfinal match.
"Ken came off the court with tears in his eyes knowing he had
earned two points for the team. He was very passionate about the
experience and that meant so much to the guys," Vecchiolla
"We were lucky to have a well-balanced yet diverse team,"
he continued. "There wasn't a shortage of leadership. In addition
to Nichols, second-year players Dalgic and Holsman were vocal at
key times during the season, lending advice and leading by example."
While the Vikings will lose Nichols, Dalgic and Holsman, several
freshmen are expected to remain on the roster, including Gutierrez,
Bielski, Lee and Daisuke Katsumata.