Tennis aims high after disappointing end to last year

Garret Mercer said his team is hungry to put last season’s Great Northeastern Athletic Conference loss behind them.

It was a four-and-a-half match that saw a breathless Mark Jackson drop his final set as the championship slipped away, 5-4, to Suffolk University.

“The very night we lost, every guy on the team vowed we’d win it next year,” said Mercer, a film production major. “We have a tougher schedule this season, and everyone thinks that they are up to the challenge.”

Head coach Mason Astley said the team is refocused and ready to go.

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“We literally could not have been any closer [last year],” Astley said. “Now we are hoping to get a couple points better than we were last year.  These guys have been really motivated.”

Will Abeles, a senior studio television major, expressed similar sentiment.

“I’m confident we can make it back to the finals this year,” Abeles said. “It’s [about] motivation.  We know we can beat these guys.   It’s about taking what we learned at the end of last season and using that as fuel for this season.”

Mercer said coming up short last season hasn’t deterred the team from setting high goals. Instead, it has fueled its desire.

“I think that our team’s expectation is to win the GNAC title,” Mercer said. “I think I speak for all of the guys on the team that we play for the love of the game, to have fun, and for each other, but at the end of the season, a piece of hardware in the trophy case that reads ‘GNAC Champions’ would be what we want.”

The Lions will be without two key players who helped them make a run last year.  All-GNAC first team selection Jackman transferred to Florida State University this summer, Astley said, and Alesandro Bellino, an All-GNAC second team pick, graduated.

But despite the losses, Astley said he and his players have complete confidence in this year’s team.

The Lions will look to returning junior Ken Nikravesh as one of their leaders.  Nikravesh, a jazz composition major at Berklee College of Music, plays for Emerson through the ProArts Consortium and has the potential to be a strong number one, Astley said.

“Ken is a really athletic guy, he’s fast as anyone, and he works really hard,” Astley said. “He also has great technique and plays a really aggressive style that most opponents don’t see a lot of.”

Astley said his team trained for three weeks in the gymnasium. While Astley said playing on a basketball court can be limiting, the team still managed to run, hit, and watch hours of film.

The team’s first game is a non-conference tilt this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

“I think we’re going to be ready, going to be excited; I think the team will be fired up,” Astley said. “We have a few games before spring break and we’re going to do everything we can to win them.”