By Jake Tiger
Rider men’s tennis has found its footing for the first time in its history.
Under the new regime of Head Coach Thomas Battaglia, a 3-1 start to Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play has given the program newfound vigor, and with a young, dominant core, Rider is set up to go from worst to first in record time.
“This is just the start of it and to be where we are is absolutely amazing,” said Battaglia, who took over the team in 2021. “Sitting at 3-1 is pretty awesome, and I’m excited.”
Prior to this season, Rider had only three MAAC wins since the 2015-16 season, and since the inception of Rider men’s tennis in 2007, the Broncs had never won two conference matches in an entire season.
“It’s very exciting to me, especially thinking ahead to my junior, senior year,” said sophomore Dylan Lachmanen. “Our team is very young; we need the years of experience and growth, and I think once we get that under our belt, then we’ll be good to go.”
Before a loss to Marist on April 7, the Broncs started MAAC play with a 3-0 record with wins over Fairfield, Mount St. Mary’s and Quinnipiac.
The 5-2 victory over Quinnipiac on April 2 was particularly meaningful for the Broncs, as it was their first win over the school since the Bobcats joined the MAAC in 2013. Before Rider’s win, all eight of its previous meetings with Quinnipiac had resulted in 0-7 losses.
“Losing matches at 7-0, 7-0, 7-0 every single time, it becomes taxing, not only on them, but me,” said Battaglia. “Now, we know every match, no matter who we play against, we have a chance to win.”
Rider’s sudden turnaround is the result of a fruitful recruiting process by Battaglia, who doubled the size of the roster with a crop of promising freshmen and transfers.
The team went from eight to 16 players, including seven freshmen and four sophomores that have carried the majority of the load during the Broncs’ hot start, with five of Rider’s top-six players being new additions.
“My No. 1 from last year is now playing No. 5,” said Battaglia. “We really worked hard recruiting players from all different parts of the world, and they’ve come in and really gelled and have taken this team to another level.”
Before the MAAC Championships begin on April 22, the Broncs have two more conference matches, hosting Siena on April 14 and Niagara on April 15.
Rider is currently tied with Quinnipiac for the MAAC’s top spot, and with a win in either of its last two matches, Rider can clinch the first playoff berth in team history.
“We’ve got more recruits, we have more talent, we have more players, and I feel like the chemistry with the players that we have now has actually had a great impact on our success,” said junior Tommy Fuentes. “[Battaglia is] a very good coach, and we have a team of brothers. We’re a good team.”