The College of Staten Island men’s tennis squad couldn’t be more ready for the 2011 CUNYAC Postseason Championship, entering the tourney as the No. 2 seed and with a 10-game winning streak. The streaking Dolphins haven’t lost since March 29, sporting a 15-4 overall mark while finalizing their CUNYAC season this past week with a 7-1 mark. The Dolphins will usher in the tournament by hosting No. 7 Brooklyn College (4-9 overall, 2-6 CUNYAC) on Saturday afternoon at 2pm as part of quarterfinal action.
Coming off back-to-back CUNYAC Regular Season Championships, the Dolphins gained the second seeding in the upcoming tournament by virtue of their 7-1 CUNYAC mark, with their only setback coming March 29 against CUNYAC-rivals Baruch College who earned top-billing in the tournament. Despite the past regular season successes, the postseason championship, which carries with it an automatic entry into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, has proven elusive for the Dolphins. In 2009, the Dolphins fell in semifinal play, and after an unblemished season a year ago, the Dolphins fell to Hunter College in the CUNYAC Final. Under fifth-year Head Coach Paul Ricciardi, CSI is looking to buck the tide.
“We’ve had a great regular season, but our goal all year is to win a CUNYAC Championship, and we’re sticking to it,” Ricciardi said. “We have a very solid unit and if everyone does their part we have just as good of a shot as any of the other teams. We can’t wait to get the second season started.”
Ricciardi is upbeat, especially with the win skein after the team started the season 3-3, which included a 1-3 trip to Orlando, Florida, to start the season. The growing pains were necessary, as CSI ripped off a series of solid wins against perennial powers St. Joseph’s College (Patchogue), Farmingdale State College, and CUNYAC-Champion Hunter College after their trip. Along the way, the Dolphins have received contributions from their entire lineup.
At the top, freshman Nicholas Zikos has had an outstanding year, sporting an 11-5 record, including a 9-5 mark in the No. 1 position. One step down, Patrick Thomas is putting fine touches on his junior campaign, sporting a 7-4 mark. CSI has sporting a healthy mix in the middle, where junior Riad Hamai, and seniors Masaru Takaki and Joseph Taranto have been virtually interchangeable.
“The middle of our lineup features three guys who complement one another with different styles and any one of them can play as high as three or as low as five,” said Ricciardi. “When they are all playing at their best, they can make our decisions a lot harder.”
The Dolphins’ strength is also at the bottom of the order, where players like seniors Gary Ambartsumov, Georgio Dano and Robert Hargraves join dynamic freshman Daniel Ursomanno for a chance to score points.
“We have a lot of versatility with the bottom of our order,” said Ricciardi. “It’s a nice luxury to have, and it makes our doubles lineup very strong as well.”
All told, the Dolphins seem to be in fine positioning for the playoff run. CSI defeated Brooklyn College earlier this season, 7-2 (CSI defaulted the two losing flights), back on March 15. A win over the Bulldogs would likely match them up against No. 3 Hunter College in a rematch of last year’s Final. The Hawks (8-4, 6-2 CUNYAC)host No. 6 Lehman College (4-7, 3-5). In other quarterfinal matches, No. 1 Baruch (11-1, 8-0) hosts No. 8 York College (3-11, 1-7), while No. 4 John Jay College (5-6, 5-3) battles No. 5 CCNY (5-7, 4-4).
The semifinals and final will both take place at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. The semifinals are on Monday at 5pm and the final is set for Thursday at 5pm.