As the weather continues to break in the metro area, the College of Staten Island’s final team to begin its season will also be looking to break through to the top of the conference standings. The CSI Men’s Tennis team will kick off its season on Friday, weather permitting, and the new year holds new promise for Head Coach Arthur Kapetanakis and his crew.

Brought on just days before the season in 2015, Kapetanakis rolled with the punches in his inaugural year, and now with a full calendar year under his belt, he recognizes the importance of a valued off-season heading in.

“Just being able to start from scratch and build up fundamentals without rushing, being able to take it easy and do some of the difficult things while taking our time was very beneficial,” said Kapetanakis, a Hunter College alum. “We’ve been able to work on our conditioning and the longer preseason has allowed us to mix up our doubles pairs and get in to a groove with one another. It’s a very nice change of pace.”

With that, the team is enthused to get the season underway. The team will be short on outdoor practices, but brimming with anxiety and excitement to get the season started thanks to a still young lineup that boasts no seniors.

“It’s definitely a huge advantage for us to have the use of the indoor courts, but this is an outdoor sport and an outdoor game, so having the chance to get out, especially on our courts where the chill and the wind play huge factors is a real welcomed break,” the coach said. “We have a lot of new faces who are excited to show what they can do and our entire unit has been working hard, so we are all looking forward to finally getting out there and getting to be match-ready.”

CSI was young a year ago, but did graduate senior leaders and all-stars Ed Ruffe and Austin Kapetanakis, and saw the departure of three other players as well, leaving them with just four returnees in 2016. To say that a spotlight will be cast on sophomores Chris Livoti and Andrew Adia, and juniors Chris Pinto and Mitchell Voloshin would be an understatement. The foursome is expected to see plenty of action on the courts this season, as well as guide the rest of the unit along the way.

“Especially in the preseason, they have been so important at setting the tone with our younger players,” Kapetanakis stated. “Letting our new guys learn and know what the commitment level is, what the expectations are, those are things that you need your older players to do, and they’ve done a fantastic job in that area. Tennis-wise, all of our returning players can likely start so not only will they be out there playing, but they will also serve as models for how we gameplan, practice, and play. Our new players are measuring their games against our returning players, so it puts added pressure on them to be at the top of their game in many ways.”

That is not to say that Kapetanakis is not high on his incoming talent. Look for netters like Matthew Vesci, a top player at Farrell High School and academic sophomore Alex Tsui to highlight coming out of the gate, while Brandon Nickel, Aldo Rodriguez, and Tony Francis will add depth to the roster. The coach is adamant about one thing: he expects all of his new pupils to be much better tennis players by the end of the season, right around the time the team eyes a CUNYAC Championship.

“We have a group of young faces that I am excited about. Matthew has great tennis smarts and is match tough and Alex is a real competitor who will challenge to be in the lineup,” the coach pointed out. “We have a number of guys who really compete and are showing me they deserve to play. We have the kind of lineup where we are very even throughout, and that means it’s an open call and the guys that work the hardest and show the most improvement will have the biggest roles. That’s an exciting development for us as coaches.”

CSI will start its season on Friday with a non-conference test against Purchase College, followed by three more home meets between a road match against CCNY, their conference debut. Later, a road match at Queens College to face Hunter College on March 30 will pit CSI against the defending champs. It will be a quality litmus test, one in a line of games against an improving conference slate. CSI was selected to finish third in the CUNYAC Preseason Poll, behind the Hawks and Baruch College.

“Historically there have been one or two frontrunners in the conference, and our goal essentially is to keep pace,” Kapetanakis said. “The thing is there a bunch of other teams hoping to do the same thing and every year brings new faces and I expect the challenge to be there each time we take the courts.”

For Kapetanakis, the mission is to get his young squad in championship form. He hopes to contend the team for a championship each season, and it starts with small steps and building his program. For the young coach and his team, so far, so good.

“In general I think we are pretty deep,” he said. “We don’t have that one superstar, that shut-down, number one player, but we also don’t have a lot of drop-off in the lineup that other teams tend to have. I believe our bottom half will be our strength and that constant push in the lineup is going to make everyone better. The harder we work, the better we will get and we have a lot of room for growth with a young team like ours.”

Admission to all CSI home tennis matches is FREE and PG-CLUE Certified for all students. The season will conclude with the CUNYAC Championships, running from April 29 to May 5, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.