Tennis searching for spring improvement

Freshman Stephen Brand has been a pleasant surprise for the men’s team, winning six singles matches during the fall season.

By Ben Smith

Rider’s men’s and women’s tennis teams are re-tooling and gearing up for the opening matches of the spring 2012 season this weekend. These will be the first tennis matches played since last October.

Each club finished last semester with three wins, though none came against conference opponents.

Conference play is an aspect that both teams would like to improve upon for the coming season.

“If we all practice hard and focus, we can have another season of improvement,” sophomore Rollie Malfitano said. “It’s unacceptable to lose so many matches, and I speak for the team when I say that we will fight our way to a successful season.”

The women’s team began their spring schedule on Thursday and lost to Philadelphia University, 9-0. Rider went 1-27 in sets during conference matches last semester, losing to Manhattan (0-7), Fairfield (0-7), Siena (1-6) and St. Peter’s (0-7). The Rider women will attempt to build a better conference record with matches against Loyola (Md.), Niagara and Marist. All conference matches will be played on the Broncs’ home courts.

“The women continue to grow and develop good chemistry,” Malfitano said. “This could be the year they put it all  together and knock off some strong teams.”

The men’s team fared no better and finished a combined 0-14 in sets during match play against conference opponents last semester, losing to Fairfield (0-7) and Siena (0-7). The men are scheduled to play Loyola (Md.), Niagara and Marist while also picking up a meeting with St. Peter’s to close the spring season, a match that has  been postponed since October of last year.

Malfitano is Rider’s number one on the men’s side after a terrific freshman campaign.

“It’s a privilege to compete at such a high level,” Malfitano said. “I have to take advantage of the opportunities I get.”

Rider is counting on its duo of perennial winners, juniors Milo Milosovici and Ryan Carpenter, to continue their consistent play from last season. The pair led the team in doubles play going 6-6.

Rider’s expectations this season may rest in the hands of the team’s lone freshman, Stephen Brand. Brand finished last fall 6-7 while switching between the third and fourth singles spot. Brand and his doubles partner, junior Drew Laverty, went 4-10 while assuming their role as the second top pair.

“Stephen provides a huge spark and a monster forehand,” Malfitano. “He goes in to each match believing he can win.”

The women’s team continues its season with another away match at La Salle on Sunday at 11 a.m.

The men start their season on Saturday at Rutgers Camden.

The women’s team has a bevy of leaders on its squad, as five of its 12 competitors are seniors and recognize what it takes to win as well as what to expect from tough conference opponents.

Both teams will come back to Lawrenceville on April 1 to play Norfolk St., their first home matches of the spring season. Both contests are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

“We are committed to working hard,” Malfitano said. Each player has improved their game since I arrived at Rider.”

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