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Steady Progress Is Hallmark of Men’s Tennis This Season


West Windsor, N.J. – The Mercer County Community College men’s tennis team had a year of steady progress.  The Vikings rallied back from a losing record of 3-7 to end the season 11-8.

“My goal every year is to ensure that the players learn the game and have fun,” Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla says.  “We did that and we had some wins that we all felt good about.  It was a successful season.”

Still, Vecchiolla wonders what might have been if the team’s no. 1 player, Ahmed al-Shawafi, had not suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Vikings’ second match. In the opening match of the season against perennial rival Brookdale Community College, al-Shawafi defeated Brookdale’s Mcclane Smoke, who went on to win the national title at no. 1 singles. 

"Including last year’s record, Ahmed beat Smoke four of the five times they faced each other.  When we lost Ahmed, I believe we lost the no. 1 player in the country in Div. III tennis,” Vecchiolla said.

Kneeling, from left, Angelo Codillo, Nick Mastalesz, Ahmed al-Shawafi and Stefan Neagu; standing from left, Assistant Coach Barb Pleva, Louie Dias, Ebrahim al-Areqi, Dario Moriello, Tyler Sincoskie, Assistant Coach Ralph Bencivengo and Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla.

Still, as in every season, Vecchiolla’s job is to help each player reach his potential. “The other players stepped up to the challenge.  Everyone moved up in the order,” Vecchiolla reports.  “They pushed themselves and developed into better players because of it.”

The roster included: Dario Moriello at no. 1; Louie Dias at no. 2; Ebrahim al-Areqi at no. 3; Stefan Neagu at no. 4; Nick Mastalesz at no. 5; Tyler Sincoskie at no. 6; and Angelo Codillo at no. 7.

The Vikings even came close to going to the national tournament.  Tied for third place at the Region 19 Tournament, they lost the tie-breaker, which cost them the trip to Texas.

Win or lose,Vecchiolla reports that this was “a good group of guys.  They were hard workers who cared about each other and wanted to get better.”

They also maintained their perspective, especially when the going got tough.  Vecchiolla says that's especially important in tennis, where players rely on themselves and their opponents to make line calls.  “We patrol ourselves,” he explains.

Vecchiolla says that his high expectations for good behavior on the court provide off-court lessons as well.  “It teaches them how to manage their emotions, which crosses over to any work environment they might be in.  If the other guy is behaving badly, you don’t need to go to that level.”

With few players expected to return next year, the roster for 2015 is wide open.  But Vecchiolla notes that in community college sports, that can change at any time.

Vecchiolla, who completes his seventh season as head coach for men’s tennis, thanks his long-time assistants Ralph Bencivengo and Barb Pleva for their help this season.  (Vecchiolla has been head coach for women’s tennis for 17 seasons.)

Click here for game recaps.

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