The first installment of the College of Staten Island spring sports season is set for take-off tomorrow, as the Men’s Tennis squad will officially usher in the start of the season with an indoor match against Yeshiva University at the Binghamton Racquet Club in Edgewater, NJ. The Dolphins’ 2017 unit is budding with old faces and new, a quality mix that promises to hold what could be a great season, according to third-year head coach Arthur Kapetanakis.
“It’s definitely a big change from last year,” said Kapetanakis, who had a roster of 10 last year cut down to eight at one point. “It’s not just about numbers with this team, but also having strength within those numbers and being solid all the way down. It’s a welcomed problem to have and we will make it work. The type of team we have makes all of us accountable and it makes for a lot of friendly competition to see who gets on the court match to match. This team is pushing and motivating each other and it’s a great thing to see.”
Numbers are normally at a premium on the CSI roster, but not this year, as the Dolphins boast a roster of 14, making this one of CSI’s deepest teams in recent memory. Kapetanakis contends that since there are no true superstars in the midst, the Dolphins instead will be a team that will rely on its strong, interchangeable parts to make for what will be a tough team to match up against, top to bottom.
“I can honestly asy that of our core group anyone can truly beat anyone on our roster and that’s not an exaggeration or a stretch. It really makes for an interesting lineup,” Kapetanakis said. “As we get playing and compete a little more at practices outdoors and such things will shake out a bit, but I think our level of play will make us very hard to match up against. Especially in doubles I envision us going in so many different ways and there never being much of a decline from the top of our lineup to the bottom. Even at the top in singles, we have guys who are match-tough, who know how to grind and fight and win tough matches.”
As deep as they are, CSI boasts only two seniors, only one a four year player in Chris Pinto. He will join returning juniors Andrew Adia and Mitchel Voloshin as the entrenched returners. Matthew Vesci is a leader at the top and a torchbearer to second year players like Mohamed El Sayed, Tony Francis and Aldo Rodriguez. Alex Tsui, a freshman a season ago was enjoying a great start but was then sidelined midseason is due back this year, as is Raymond Hwang, who had an exceptional rookie campaign in 2015 but missed all of last season and was not on the roster. The eclectic mix has Kapetanakis excited.
“It’s good to have a base because from day one those guys know what to expect and they put those expectations on the others,” he noted. “This dynamic mix makes for a family environment and the more we have guys who stick around and lend themselves to the bigger picture, the more the new players can integrate with ease. I am really happy to have all of our returning guys setting great examples for our first-year players.”
Of course, the returning talent makes for optimism, but CSI is also bringing in a quality recruiting class that will contend right out of the gate. Look for players like Mukhiddin Nuriddinov and first-year junior Akaki Dundua to make a difference right away, while new faces like Tao Lin and Michael Ashirov will continue to give Kapetanakis plenty of options. That’s important given the nature of a typical tennis season in the Northeast. Teams pack many matches in a short period of time. Staying fresh is a commodity few teams have and the make-up of the roster allows Kapetanakis to be liberal.
“I would say everyone is in good enough shape to take on the rigors of the season but there will be occasions where if we have a player or two who is not at 100-percent or if we are playing a lot of tennis because of cancelations, we have a luxury to go out and shuffle our lineup a bit,” the coach said. “Obviously it’s all about being at your best in late-April and early-May, so our hope is to keep the bodies healthy until then.”
Always near the top of the CUNYAC standings, a championship has proven to be awfully elusive. The Dolphins won 10 CUNYAC titles between 1984-2003, but have been shut out since. Kapetanakis knows better than to make lofty predictions but his team is invested in bringing a title back to Staten Island, and if all goes well, he plans to be there at the end battling for the trophy.
“In terns of a championship, you never know year to year what your opponents will put out there, so it’s tough to predict,” he said. “I know this is the best team that I have coached here. A couple of years ago we won a double-digit number of matches so I’d like for us to be able to do that this year and take that next step towards a championship. It’s been a few years since this team has made a Final so that will be our true goal this year. We feel it’s a realistic goal and we will see what happens from there.”
After Yeshiva tomorrow, the Dolphins will face-off with NCAA Division I and neighboring Wagner College at the CSI Tennis Center on March 4 for their home opener. They’ll have to wait until March 29 to intro CUNYAC play, hosting Hunter College at 3:30pm. Admission to all CSI Tennis matches are free and PG-CLUE Certified for all CSI students.