The College of Staten Island men’s tennis squad will be embarking on its most important match of the season tonight, a date with top-seeded Baruch College in the CUNYAC Postseason Championship Final at National Tennis Center in Flushing. Match time is at 5:00pm with the winner clinching an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament. The 11-7 Dolphins moved past Lehman College and John Jay College, respectively, to gain entry to the Final, and will match up with a Bearcats team that handed them their only loss of the 2013 CUNYAC campaign.
The CUNYAC Championship has been an elusive one for Head Coach Paul Ricciardi, who took over a men’s team in 2007 that had won three matches in its previous two seasons combined and has since led them to its second Finals appearance and first since 2010. The Dolphins have been perennial powers, however, falling to the eventual champions in the semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
“We are incredibly excited for the opportunity to prove ourselves on the biggest CUNY stage tonight,” said Ricciardi. “We know we face a difficult challenge ahead of us but at the same time we competed very hard the first time around against Baruch and we know what we are in for.”
The Dolphins and Bearcats were deadlocked atop the CUNYAC standings until their regular season meeting at CSI on April 15. Baruch got off to a crucial 3-0 start after doubles, and despite six very competitive singles flights, Baruch held tight to a 7-2 win. For Ricciardi, the final score was deceiving, in that his team showed tremendous resolve after doubles, and he expects the competition to be tight as well this time around.
“We have really elevated our practices since that match because we know that in order to achieve the goals we have it’s going to take our very best,” the coach said. “I know that whatever happens, we are going to leave our very best on the courts tonight.”
Singles has been the Dolphins forte this season, namely at the top. Through flights one through three, CSI boasts an overall team record of 37-16, including a 19-2 mark in CUNYAC play. The trio of Nick Zikos, Timur Shamuradov, and freshman Hector Molina have been the anchors there, each enjoying tremendous seasons. The same is true for Daniel Ursomanno, who cemented in the No. 4 spot, boasts a 12-4 singles record this season. Freshmen Kolachok Chuenpratum, who was not on hand in the regular season defeat to Baruch, and Ed Ruffe, should complete tonight’s lineup, with doubles standout Austin Kapetanakis adding the well-needed depth. It has been the cohesion and camaraderie of the unit that has the coach inspired about their chances.
“From our very first practice, our team has set goals and we know how important those goals are for the guy next to us,” Ricciardi said. “That is the spirit of this team and how we play. The goal is to do our best and have no regrets when it’s over, win or lose.”
Baruch will certainly bring their A-game to tonight’s Final as well. The team boasted an exceptional 12-4 overall record including an unblemished mark against CUNYAC competition, getting through Brooklyn College and Hunter College on their way to the Final. The Bearcats come in winners of six straight.
Tickets to the Final at NTC are free of charge for all spectators. The first team to score five points in the match will automatically win the Final and the rest of the matches will remain unfinished.