Rider University’s tennis program has already made progressive strides to start the 2008-2009 season.
The women’s team consisted of nine ladies in the ’07-’08 season with only one freshman recruit as they finished 2-13 while going winless in the MAAC. Many matches were forfeited because of the shortage of players, but this year has been a completely different story.
The women’s team boasts a 14-man roster, 11 of them being underclassmen. Head Coach Ed Torres, entering his 14th season at the helm, is optimistic about the young group.
“Our freshman are really good, and we have four of them starting, he said. “Everyone is getting better each match.”
Rider’s primary goal this season is one it feels the team has the personna to achieve.
“Our goal is to advance in the standings and finish above .500, and we believe we can do so with Kristina [Paich] and Danielle [Morse] leading the way, rotating at number one singles,” said Torres.
Paich and Morse also provide a veteran and deadly doubles tandem, giving the Broncs leadership at both singles and doubles play.
The highly anticipated new campaign kicked off on Tuesday, Sept. 16, where Rider battled NJIT. The Broncs fell in a 5-2 decision as freshman Tricia Ashmore won five games, dropping in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
Rider bounced back two days later, defeating state rival Monmouth 4-3 for its first victory of the season. The Broncs captured revenge on their home courts, as the Hawks defeated Rider last season 6-1.
The team was triumphant despite losing the point in doubles play. With the match notched at three, Paich came through in the clutch, winning in straight sets 7-6, 7-5 and 6-4 to clinch the victory. Morse won easily in second singles 6-3, 6-0 and freshman Allison Clay cruised to her first win 6-2, 6-2 at fifth singles.
Since then, Rider has dropped three straight decisions, placing the team at 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the MAAC.
The Broncs lost 0-7 to Delaware State, 1-6 against St. Joe’s, and 1-6 to conference opponent St. Peter’s despite dominating the doubles competition.
Rider has received consistent play from Paich, Morse, and Ashmore as the team looks to turn things around with the continuation of their regular season.
The men’s team has all the pieces to the puzzle this season, and now it’s time to put them together.
The Broncs return all the major contributors from last year’s 5-12 squad, which won only one conference match.
This resilient bunch hope to obtain the same goal as the women’s team, according to Torres.
“[Like the women’s team,] we want to move up in the standings this year and finish above .500,” he said.
The man who can make that happen is senior leader Casey Jedlinski, who returns as the team’s number one singles player for the third straight year. The Manalapan native finished last season with five wins at singles and Torres believes he is primed for a breakout year.
“Casey worked really hard in the off-season,” he said. “He worked a lot on his conditioning, played in tournaments and really wanted to improve his game, and he did so.”
Complementing Jedlinski are key returnees in junior Will Haight, who has compiled 10 wins in his first two seasons at number two singles, and junior Marc Ashed, who also has 10 wins on his career resume. The two veterans also provide an experienced doubles combo who have been competing together since their freshman year.
The men are off to a nice start with their record sitting at 1-1. Rider was defeated by NJIT in its season opener, 7-0.
Torres explained that the match was a lot closer and more competitive than the score indicated.
“The score didn’t show how the match really went,” he said. “We were very competitive and almost all the matches were close. They had everyone back from last year and really improved.”
The Broncs rebounded five days later by beating Delaware State, a team they fell to last season, in a 4-3 decision.
Jedlinski and sophomore Chris Esposito won their singles play while also capturing their doubles competition with sophomore partners Josh Rultenberg and Robert Olsen. Esposito assisted in the victory with a three-set win of 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-1 at number five singles. When partnered up with Olsen, the pair won 9-7 at third doubles. Jedlinski and Rultenberg clinched 8-4 at first doubles.
Rider will look to win its second straight match and jump above the .500 mark on Thursday against one of the toughest opponents the Broncs will face all season: Marist.
The Red Foxes are defending champs and have been a MAAC powerhouse the last 10 years. They finished last season at 13-3, undefeated in conference play. Marist also boasts last year’s most outstanding performer in the MAAC, junior Loic Sessagesimi, who finished a remarkable 19-5 at singles play and 19-3 for doubles. Jedlinski will have his hands full with the standout but Torres believes his number one will surprise him.
“Casey gave him a battle last year and I think he’s going to surprise him a little bit and play him extremely tough,” said Torres.
Despite the outcome, the Broncs are learning and improving day in and day out, and that approach is what they look to continue for the entirety of the season.
Both teams will continue their schedules, facing off against Siena at 11 a.m. tomorrow.