Men's Tennis Season Preview
Jan. 22, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina men’s tennis team is coming off its best season in school history with a 19-5 overall record and two national rankings during the 2008-09 campaign. This year’s squad has a lot to live up to. However, the team also has a big advantage.
ECU returns four of six starters from last year’s unit; out of those four starters, two are seniors and two are juniors. The Pirates added five freshmen and a transfer from Hofstra to the mix. Determination, maturity and talent are keys for a repeat of last season’s success.
"The team is motivated and eager to work hard to obtain our common goal of living up to our potential," head coach Shawn Heinchon explained. "The guys have done a great job of pushing each other hard this fall and improving. If we continue to do so, we will have a great year."
The four returning players boast a 62-23 overall record from last year. The freshmen made a good showing in the fall with a record of 11-12, proving that they are competitors. Heinchon, who is in his fifth year, is optimistic about the team’s prospects.
"We have a lot of experience coming back from last year’s team," Heinchon said. "With four of our top six back we should have an advantage in some of our close matches. It’s easier to handle the pressure of a close, hard-fought match when you’ve been there before. Our returning guys will be key in helping our freshman handle that pressure."
The schedule is one that the four returners have seen before. The Pirates will face 26 opponents this spring - 16 of which they met just last season. ECU had a 12-4 record against those teams. This year, the Pirates will have to play 16 of their matches on the road as compared to 10 at home.
Doubles play is an area the team would like to improve on this season. During the fall, the team went 5-10 in doubles.
"We’ve been very successful in our doubles play over the last few years," Heinchon said. "We are going to need to get back to our level in doubles play in order for us to have a chance to do really well. We did not always play up to our ability and will need to do that if we want to be successful this spring."
With the leadership of junior Jaroslav Horvath and the talent of freshmen Ely Khoury and Massimo Mannino, the Pirates will be a threat to a number of its competitors. Horvath played mostly in the one or two-singles spot last spring.
"Jay is one of the hardest workers on the team," Heinchon continued. "He is big, strong and fast. We are going to need him to step up and beat some of the best guys we will see this spring."
Mannino currently has a record of 7-2 in singles and 1-4 in doubles play.
"Massimo had a very solid fall," Heinchon explained. "He has gained some experience and has used it to make great strides from where he was when he first stepped on campus. We are looking for him to come in and make an immediate impact at the top of our lineup."
Khoury was a top North Carolina prospect out of high school and finished 2-3 in singles play, but 0-2 in doubles during the fall campaign.
"Ely has one of the biggest hearts on the team," Heinchon added. "He will do whatever it takes to get better and also whatever it takes for our team to be successful. We expect him to be a leader on and off the court this spring."
The Pirates will face Old Dominion, a team they captured 10 victories against during this fall's Old Dominion Collegiate Invitational, today to open the spring season. Last February, the squad came home with a 4-3 over ODU.
The action continues Saturday when the team will compete in the Old Dominion Team Shootout against Norfolk State and Morgan State.