Flashback Friday is looking back at the top moments from the 2018-19 athletic year each Friday over the summer at the College of Staten Island. Our countdown continues with a phenomenal tennis match this past spring in the CUNYAC Championship Tournament, where the Dolphins narrowly escaped past Brooklyn College.

#7 – Men’s Tennis scores thrilling win over Brooklyn College in CUNYAC Semifinals 
Date:  May 2, 2019
Who:  CSI Men’s Tennis
Where: National Tennis Center – Flushing, NY
What Happened:  In a rematch of their heavily-contested regular-season meeting, CSI squared off with Brooklyn College in the CUNYAC Semifinals, and the teams played a match that would be determined on the final volley.  CSI led 2-1 after Doubles, but Brooklyn took the first two singles matches to take a 3-2 lead.  CSI then scored wins by Alex Tsui and Raymond Hwang to take it back 4-3, but BC would tie it.  That would lead to the final at the No. 1 position.  There, Matt Vesci would score a thrilling, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4) win over BC’s Justin Vasquez to clinch it.  It would mark CSI’s first entry into the final and their highest win total since 2013.  The Dolphins would finish with an 11-3 record.

16710Q&A…with Matthew Vesci

Matt, CSI had a great season this past year.  It didn’t end with a Championship, but the 11 wins and the Finals appearance must have been a nice end for the group.  Can you explain how successful the season was for you guys overall?  
It was a great ride playing this year with the team, better than any other year prior. This was the first year we felt like a united team, not just a few guys going out together to play a tennis match. We each had positions, roles, doubles partners that we maintained throughout the entire year, and that provided the extra strength that our team needed. This was by far the most successful year during my tenure at the College of Staten Island. 

The team also went through a coaching change this past season.  What did new Head Coach Ryan Frankel add to the equation?   
Coach Ryan was a good fit to our roster. He meshed well with the players we had, yet was able to pick out flaws that none of us had noticed prior. Being a recent college graduate himself, Ryan liked the team bonding aspect which lead us to grow closer as friends, on and off the court. Ryan also stressed how important it was to cheer one another on during times of struggle, and thus we all benefited. He was certainly a leading contributor as to why we made it to the championship. 

The team lost their first match of the season but then ripped off eight in a row, including a gritty 6-3 win over Brooklyn College.  At what point in the season did you know this team could contend for a title?    
Once we defeated top contenders such as Brooklyn and Hunter who had been ranked higher than us during preseason, I knew the sky was the limit. Baruch was always going to be the toughest challenge, however, we were riding a confidence high. Winning so many matches consistently, I figured that why couldn’t we beat Baruch at this point?

Fast forward to the Semifinal, you came in as the No. 2 seed.  How comfortable were you guys as a team coming into the matchup with Brooklyn?   
Due to the fact we had beaten Brooklyn earlier on in the season, we may have overlooked the team as a whole, which came back to bite us, because for much of the match we were trailing as a team. However, when we really needed to take care of business, we did, and I am proud of the guys for that. It would have been a shame to never make it to the championship during my career, and I’m glad to finally have been a part of that. 

Once Singles started, Brooklyn really took over momentum, and you found yourselves behind.  At what point did you know that your flight was going to be one that was going to make or break the match?  
After losing my doubles match, and going down the first set in singles, I knew that something had to change. Guys like Ivi, Lesley, and Matt Kotylar had lost prior as well, and I knew that the pressure mounted on my shoulders. For the time being I had been playing very passive, not wanting to lose, yet not taking the bull by the horns either. I needed to make a change in my playing style and although you’re out there alone on the court, I was able to game plan and change my tactics. 

You didn’t play a great deal at No. 1 this past year but you did for this match and your match against Justin was epic.  How comfortable were you in that position?
Throughout my years at CSI I had played No.1. My sophomore and junior year, I predominantly played in the top spot. Therefore, I did not feel any great pressure with what the number entailed, I just went out there to get the job done, no matter what position I played. Truthfully, I had advocated to be in the top spot my entire senior year, and actually went 6-2 at the number one spot. Regardless, I felt comfortable, and the match was indeed epic. I told myself not to let tensions or outsiders distract me, and focused solely on my game.

When it all comes down to your set, it must be great to have the team behind you, but it must also be a lonely feeling there on the court, knowing it all depends on you.  Can you describe being in that position?  
Being a baseball player for most of my life and transitioning over to tennis during college, I knew both ways the sport can feel. During trips, bus rides, and practices, you feel you like you are one of the mob. However, on the court, I do enjoy the one-on-one battle mentality. It leaves your opponent vulnerable as well, just like you, they are also unable to look to others for advice. In the end, I survived and yes, having the team rooting for me as well is a great feeling. Their presence does have an impact, however, when it comes down to it, there is a lot of mental strain when it comes to being a tennis player. 

The third-set came down to yet another tiebreaker and all eyes were on your court to determine the winner.  Can you explain the type of pressure that’s involved with a match like that?  
Tons! After every point, your brain wants to reassess what you did wrong and how you can improve for the next point, but you can’t. It’s an endless cycle of trying to do better, yet also moving onto the next point. Years prior I would have let my nerves get to me, but on this occasion, I did push them to the side. I relied on my shots, concentrated on my game, and came away with the win. Even the coaches after the match were stunned about how aggressive I played. I told them on the bus ride back home, I did not want to go home thinking I could’ve done something else. I wanted to leave it all out there on the court, go for shots I knew I could make, and that’s what I did. 

Winning must have been exhilarating.  Was that among the best team wins you’ve had in your four years at CSI?  Overall, what do you make of your years as a Dolphin playing tennis?
It was by far the best experience I have ever had on a tennis court. Playing since the age of eight I have played many tournaments, but nothing compared to this. The team atmosphere mixed with the high-pressure stakes only increased the intensity of the situation. It will certainly be a memory that sticks with me even well beyond college. Being a Dolphin these four years have been a rollercoaster. Through all the different coaches, the banter over line ups, and who should play where, and how we can get better, was sometimes exhausting. Going into the final year I did not know how much I had to give, but I’m glad I stayed. This final year in particular with the guys behind me was great, and I can truly say it was a pleasure being the Men’s Tennis Captain for these past three years.

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