Men's Tennis Team Enjoys Thrill of Victory


With a 10-0 record by mid-April, it was clear that the men's tennis team was going places this year - perhaps as far as the national tournament in Plano, Texas. Under new Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, who has coached MCCC women's tennis for 11 seasons, the men did indeed prove dominant, winning match after match by large margins. By the end of the regular season, this talented, focused squad had tallied a 12-2 record and headed for the Region 19 Tournament, held April 25-27 at Mercer County Park, hoping to take the crown.

Anchored by co-captain Marc Nichols at the no. 1 position, the entire team came through. By day two of the tournament, Mercer dominated the action, as all six singles players and two of three doubles teams advanced to the finals. The Vikings won five of their eight final matches, including a 6-1, 6-1 victory by Nichols; a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory by co-captain Ozcan Dalgic at no. 3; and a 6-1, 6-4 victory by Jason Bielski at no. 5. In doubles action, Drew Holsman and Nichols teamed for a 6-3, 6-2 win at no. 1, while Bielski and Luis Gutierrez won 6-2, 6-2 at no. 2. The singles roster also included Gutierrez at no. 2, Holsman at no. 4, Joon Lee at no. 6, Ken Newman at no. 7 and Daisuke Katsumat at no. 8.

The trip to the NJCAA Championship Tournament in Plano, TX, May 10-16 was a high point for all of Mercer's players, but only Marc Nichols at no. 1 singles came home with a trophy. (See feature story this page.) The Vikings got off to a solid start in the first round, with Nichols, Dalgic, Bielski and Lee winning their singles matches, and Dalgic and Newman winning at no. 3 doubles. Dalgic, Bielski and Lee advanced to the semifinals before being defeated and the Vikings collected 16 points for a fifth place finish out of 11 teams.

Vecchiolla is proud of his players' achievements this season, particularly at the nationals, where they earned twice as many points as last year's squad (which qualified for the tournament after finishing second in the region). He notes that coaching the no. 1 singles player in the country was thrilling, and he credits Nichols with raising the bar for the entire team. He also describes the unusual experience of coaching Ken Newman, a 70-year-old returning student - "probably a record in terms of age" - and recalls the poignant moment after Newman and Dalgic won their quarterfinal match. "Ken came off the court with tears in his eyes knowing he had earned two points for the team. He was very passionate about the experience and that meant so much to the guys," Vecchiolla said.

"We were lucky to have a well-balanced yet diverse team," he continued. "There wasn't a shortage of leadership. In addition to Nichols, second-year players Dalgic and Holsman were vocal at key times during the season, lending advice and leading by example."

While the Vikings will lose Nichols, Dalgic and Holsman, several freshmen are expected to remain on the roster, including Gutierrez, Bielski, Lee and Daisuke Katsumata.

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