The College of Staten Island men’s tennis program has made plenty of noise in their history, but after being shut out of a CUNYAC Championship for over a decade, the Dolphins are once again chasing a call to excellence, and hope the pieces can fall into place with a brand new outlook in 2015. With first-year head coach Arthur Kapetanakis manning the controls of a young but experienced unit, the team hopes to propel forward after a run that ended in the semifinals a year ago.
Kapetanakis joined the team just weeks ago, just in time to see the unit make strides in what has been a frustrating preseason, spent almost exclusively indoors thanks to the rough winter weather.
“We have been limited with court time for sure but we’ve made the most of it, working hard and getting our fitness to where it needs to be,” said Kapetanakis, who preaches conditioning and mental preparation as key factors to his coaching technique. “We are very much looking forward to getting out there and playing outdoor tennis. It will certainly help us get to where we need to be after a tough start.”
Still, Kapetanakis, who won a pair of championships at nearby Hunter College prior to his graduation in 2012, knows his team has benefitted from the indoor court work on campus, and the team is guided by a pair of seniors and captains who’ve been able to steady the ship in Ed Ruffe and younger brother Austin Kapetanakis. Both are in the heart of the CSI lineup, and are expected to guide the team to an improved run in 2015, looking to build on the team’s frustrating 5-9 season of a year ago.
“They have definitely adopted the mentality of hard work and improvement and every day they are pushing the team and leading by example, and that’s what you need from your captains,” said Kapetanakis. “Working hard, being on time, and giving one-hundred percent lead to improvement on their court and they are not afraid of that commitment or level of dedication and it translates to the rest of the team.”
The captaincy will join returners Chris Pinto and Mitchell Voloshin who had big roles on last year’s squad, along with Dmitriy Vituk, who missed 2014, but was a member of the 2013 squad. They anchor a unit that should fare very well from the middle to the bottom of the order, and will give the coach flexibility with doubles pairings.
“We have a good mix,” said the coach. “To be young but also experienced is an exciting combination to have. It leaves the door open for improvement and a drive to succeed and everyone is really excited to get out there and prove what they are capable of this year.”
The Dolphins do have some ground to cover, and that’s where the influx of new talent will help, and according to Kapetanakis the team will be served well by the additions of true freshmen Chris Livoti (Curtis High School), who expects to be a figure near the top of the lineup, and Andrew Adia (St. Peter’s). and Raymond Hwang (Port Richmond). All three can figure in Kapetanakis’ everyday lineup, with their best tennis still very much ahead of them.
“Chris has the strokes and the mental preparation as a tournament player to be a very fine player for us and it’s going to be exciting to see that develop this year,” said Kapetanakis. “Andrew and Raymond are new to the college game as well and are getting their tennis games developed every day. The more matches they play and the more they buy in to what we will do as a program, the better the chance they will have at being key pieces to our puzzle this season.”
Kapetanakis is hoping for bigger and better things for the Dolphins in 2015, but it will start with a call to proper conditioning and being able to gel on the court over time. For Kapetanakis, he hopes the team will be a far cry better by the end of the season than at the beginning, especially since the weather has proved so frustrating.
“I have always felt, especially within the CUNY conference, that there is really not much separation between the top teams, and we are right there,” he said. “In the end, I think fitness comes into play the most. At the end of a long season when you are playing long matches with a lot on the line, it’s going to be the better conditioned and the most mentally-sound tennis player who win matches, and we want to be that type of team. We would like to give ourselves a chance to play in those types of matches at the end of the season, and so long as we work hard physically and mentally, the results will take care of themselves.”
CSI will open their season on Tuesday, March 17, at 2:30pm at the CSI Tennis Center against conference-rival City College of New York. After that the team will get an extended break before its first road match against St. Joseph’s College – Patchogue on March 25. Key matches include a March 28 showdown with Hunter College at National Tennis Center in Flushing, and an April 10 home date against defending-champion Baruch College. All CSI home games are FREE and PG-CLUE Certified for all students. You can keep up with the CSI tennis teams all year long on social media as well. Follow the team at @CSI_Tennis on Instagram and Twitter and at CSI Men’s Tennis on Facebook.