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Men’s tennis has big hopes this season with new faces

Senior+Jacob+Wachs+prepares+to+hit+the+ball+back+to+his+opponent.+The+2024+Ithaca+College+mens+tennis+season+is+under+way+with+promising+first-year+students+and+new+coaching+staff.
Ray Milburn
Senior Jacob Wachs prepares to hit the ball back to his opponent. The 2024 Ithaca College men’s tennis season is under way with promising first-year students and new coaching staff.

The Ithaca College men’s tennis team is gearing up for another spring after coming off a rough  2023 season where the Bombers maintained a 1–7 conference record and a 6–10 regular  record. Thankfully, a new face is trying to right the ship.

The team is experiencing new leadership with head coach Tom Rischoff who is in his first season with the squad after spending a successful year as the assistant coach for the Middlebury College women’s tennis team. During the 2023 season, he helped lead the team to a 17–4 season, where they made it to the NCAA semifinals. Rishcoff said that he is looking forward to this season with the Bombers and that he has a main goal of winning the Liberty League.

“I’m really excited about the talent that we have on the team here,” Rishcoff said. “I think it’s a great conference that we compete in. My goal is to try to finish as high up in the Liberty League Conference as I can. I think we have a great group of guys here on the team and my goal is to try to finish in the top three in the Liberty League this year.”

Despite the Bombers’ high hopes, they will have an uphill climb if they want to compete for a Liberty League title this season. Rishcoff said the top opponents the team will have to take on this year including the defending Liberty League champion Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers, as well as Skidmore College, Vassar College and Hobart College.

Although Rishcoff is new this season, the players have taken a liking to him. First-year student Gijs Fidler said that Rishcoff has integrated well into the team and that he is excited for what he has in store with the program.“Coach Tom has been good I think so far,” Fidler said. “[He] makes sure we have good practice hours, practice enough [and] gets us hyped. I think he tries to push us to our limits. So I’m excited to see what he can do for us and what we can help him achieve in the program.”

The Bombers have an 11-person roster and are returning four sophomores, one junior, three seniors and one graduate student. Some players that Rishcoff said he expects high performances from are senior Nicolas Luis and first-year students Emiliano Pedrero and Fidler.

The captains for this season include graduate student Max Sobel and seniors Jacob Wachs, Eric Dubilirer, and Luis. Each player has over three years with the team.

Last season, Luis went 12–4 in singles matches, earning him a spot on the second team singles for the Liberty League conference.

Pedrero and Fidler will be in the number one doubles spot and have experience in that role during the fall where they made it to the quarterfinals at the 2023 ITA Northeast Regional. Pedrero said he feels that he and Fidler are prepared to step into this big role as they both have experience playing at a high level including multiple International Tennis Federation tournaments.

“We both have that nastiness we need to be able to compete without feeling pressured,” Pedrero said.

Pedrero emphasized the energy that he puts into matches and said that he gives it his all on the court.

“When we play at home and invite you to see the games, you will see the energy I personally put into doubles,” Pedrero said. “It’s a constant maximum energy throughout the matches and also for me personally it’s a way to give out and to express my emotions, maybe some strength, maybe some anger.”

Preparation has been intentional and productive for the Bombers. Fidler said that preparation for the season has gone well and that stamina toward the home stretch will be key.

“Over break we practiced a little at home,” Fidler said. “I think that’s how we prepared mostly and then staying fit. We’re gonna keep going to lift, watch our nutrition and make sure we stay healthy and recover our bodies well. I think that’s gonna be the toughest part toward the end of the season.”

Sophomore Carlos Hernandez impressed last season, putting up a 7–5 record in singles and a 3–1 record in doubles. Hernandez said that last season’s performance was not as bad as it seemed and that this season he wants to make sure those close results go in the Bombers’ favor.

“The season wasn’t that bad, but we lost so many that we didn’t have to lose,” Hernandez said. “Also there were so many [games] where the score didn’t reflect the real score like the matches that we lost were really tight. So that is really important to me, because this season I think if we focus more on finishing them, those kinds of matches that we lost last year.”

Hernandez also wanted to set the bar high for not only the team but himself. Hernandez said he thinks the sky’s the limit for what he can put out on the court.

“I want to win all of my matches,” Hernandez said.Which is like a really difficult goal but I think that it’s possible.” 

The duo has the same mindset when it comes to what is important to success on the court. Fidler said he wants to put an emphasis on high paced play when he steps on the court. 

“Positive energy, I think overall, because college has way more energy than [the International Tennis Federation] juniors,” Fidler said. “To try and stay positive and make an impact and try and win some matches, play big, stay aggressive.” 

Like Fidler, Pedrero believes energy has a big factor on how a team performs. Pedrero said that he is an energetic person and that it provides momentum to the team.

“So there’s a lot of factors involved for you to be able to win matches for something that you will see all this energy,” Pedrero said. “I’m a pretty loud person and in college it’s all about being loud. It’s all about screaming, a lot about energy and momentum. One example it’s when we practice at 6 a.m. I go and as soon as I enter the [Athletics and Events] arena, I have my speaker and I put my Mexican songs to maximum volume. Like maybe I slept three hours, but somehow I have the energy to give my best training.

Hernandez said he sees a difference in this year’s squad and that gives him confidence that this year they can turn it around.

“I see that everyone in the team believes that we’re gonna achieve those goals,” Hernandez said. “Which is good, because last year we didn’t, we were like, ‘Oh we’re gonna win and maybe we’re gonna get this,’ but they didn’t really believe in that.”

After a 7–2 opening victory over Drew University on Feb. 10, the Bombers fell 8–1 to the University of Rochester on Feb. 24 to bring the team’s current record to 1–1. The Bombers will next travel to face the St. Lawrence University Saints at 10 a.m. March 2 in Canton, New York.

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Ray Milburn
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