March 20, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 50°F


Men’s tennis looks to bounce back from late-season faults

The 2023 Ithaca College men’s tennis team is hard at work pursuing what it hopes to be a prosperous season after individual and doubles success in the fall.

The team struggled in the 2021–22 season, where it finished 8–10 and 2–6 in Liberty League play last season, but showed bright spots after starting 5–0 and being competitive throughout matches during the season.

Head coach Chris Hayes ’16 said he has seen a lot of improvement and thinks the Bombers can make an impact this season. 

“Everyone on the team continues to improve their level of play and that’s something that’s really important to me,” Hayes said. “Continuing a strong level of play and continuing to build our team culture, because it’s really strong. Right now the guys are a tight-knit unit; it’s been like that for a long time here.”

The Bombers are going into the season with underclassmen filling nearly half of the spots on the roster. The squad will have five first-year students and will only carry two seniors on a team of 14 players. One of those seniors, Max Sobel, said he plays with intensity and said the team will replicate that this season.

“I think when I step onto the court, it’s a lot of electric tennis,” Sobel said. “It’s fast, It’s action-packed with a lot going on. We have a big environment around the team, so all the guys are really close and we have a lot of other people that come and support us. It’s a very fiery environment. … We like to get very fired up, get prepared and get psyched out for the matches.”

Sobel is stepping into one of three captain spots for the team and said he is putting an emphasis on his sense of competition and experience to help lead his teammates. 

“As a senior now, I’m kind of reflecting back on my past years,” Sobel said. “It’s been a long journey and it’s been a long road to get here, but I think keeping the traditions that have been instilled in me from my past captains and my past seniors is something that I want to bring to the table and bring forward to the team.”

Sobel is going into the season as the only senior with a captain’s spot, but the other two spots are in good hands, being filled by juniors Jacob Wachs and Nicolas Luis. Luis is coming into the season after finishing last season with a successful 10–7 singles record and 9–8 doubles record. He said he is looking to build off it and make this season his best yet.

“This is my first year as a captain, so I want to set a good example on and off the court,” Luis said. “I want to be able to talk to everyone, be someone people can come to if they have any problems. … I want to be playing at my top level at all times and never quit.”

The Bombers’ youth movement this season will change a lot about how the team looks from last season, but Luis believes the new season will uncover a whole new versatility to the team. 

“We have a big class of five first-year [students], so obviously it’s a new big addition to the team,” Luis said. “We’ve lost two of our captains from last year, but these five new first-year [students] will be very versatile within the team, and you see a lot of different game styles and strengths with them.”

Hayes said he has loved the ways Sobel, Wachs, Luis and junior Eric Dubilirer have stepped up to lead the team during the preseason. Hayes said he expects big seasons out of the upperclassmen, but Luis will have a huge impact on the court this season.

“I’m expecting a big year from [Luis]; Nico has continued to improve over his past few years here,” Hayes said. “This will be his secondstraight full season at number one in singles. … Last year was his first full year at number one which is a big step. By the end of last season, he was really coming on; he beat Hamilton’s number one, who’s a top-ranked regional player in our section, and beat the number one players from the College of New Jersey and NYU this past fall. So I’m expecting a really strong season from him.”

Hayes said he has recognized the effect the five first-year students have already shown and is very confident in their ability to make an immediate impact. Hayes says that while the first-year students are learning from the upperclassmen, the leaders of the group are learning just as much from the newcomers. 

“We have a big first-year [student] class and we’ve got a lot of really talented kids,” Hayes said. “Siddharth Vaada, Jimin Woo, David Lubell, Ean Lantzy and Carlos Hernandez all bring something different to the table, but all are talented individuals. I notice a different attitude within this first-year class than I’ve seen in previous years, to the point where they’re really pushing the upperclassmen which is great.”

The team will face some tough competition with the likes of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hobart College and Skidmore College, but Sobel is confident the team can compete with anyone.

“We have goals to make the Liberty League playoffs,” Sobel said. “We have goals to win non-conference matches and we have goals to be at the top of the Liberty League.

The squad began their season Feb. 12 and have already tallied two wins over Drew University and Houghton College. The Bombers next play March 4 against Skidmore College.