Men’s and women’s tennis poised for success in fall

by Hayden Aldredge | 9/15/14 5:22pm

The men’s tennis team heads to Princeton University and the women to the College of William and Mary this Friday following strong 2013-14 seasons, defined by last-second victories, crushing defeats and unprecedented success. Though no team tournaments take place in the fall, the individual outings can serve as important practice for the winter and spring.

Last season, the men’s team placed as high as 33rd in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, the highest ever in program history. Its 5-2 Ivy League record marked its best performance in league play in more than 15 years, and its 18 victories set a program record.

But the season ended in surprise disappointment for the Big Green: the men found themselves sitting on the wrong side of the bubble for the NCAA tournament, one of the last teams not included in the tournament’s 32-team field.

There was some vindication in the form of postseason awards. Dovydas Sakinis ’16 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, the first such award for a Dartmouth tennis player since the award’s inception in 1988. Sakinis was also awarded first team all-Ivy League, after going 14-6 in singles play. Dartmouth also had two first team All-Ivy doubles players.

The team enters the fall with the 12th best recruiting class in the nation, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Two players in this highly regarded class arrive from England. Aman Agarwal ’18 and Paul Midgley ’18 bring more international talent to a team already featuring Australian, Colombian and Lithuanian players. Ciro Riccardi ’18 from California and Max Fliegner ’18 from Michigan round out a very promising class. Riccardi comes in ranked as high as 9th in the nation.

The fall is highlighted by six individual tournaments, as far away as Alabama — important preparation for full team competitions in the winter and spring, which is when year’s true challenges begin.

George Wall ’17 said winter and spring matches against the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Texas Christian University and Florida State University will be especially challenging.

“We’re trying to build on our narrow miss of NCAAs last year,” Blake Niehaus ’17 said, noting that the team sees itself as a top-30 program and hopes to win the Ivy League.

Max Schmidt ’17 said the team has worked hard during the off season and the freshmen are impressive.

The women’s team also had a successful 2013-14 campaign, finishing the season with a 4-3 Ivy League record and ranked seventh in the final ITA Northeast region rankings. Overall, the Ivy League sent two schools, Columbia University and Princeton University, to the NCAA tournament. Yale University and Dartmouth were the two best Ivy League women’s tennis teams to miss out on the tournament.

The women certainly face tough league competition, but stand prepared for it, having lost just one senior from last year’s squad.

Taylor Ng ’17, last year’s team’s most valuable player, was also honored with second team All-Ivy. She went 6-1 in Ivy league play as a freshman. Katherine Yau ’16 was the women’s team lone first team All-Ivy selection. Yau was appointed co-captain by head coach Bob Dallis along with Akiko Okuda ’15.

The team welcomes three members of the Class of 2018 this year. Alexxis Kiven ’18 hails from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and is a five star recruit ranked as high as 51st in the national recruiting class. Kristina Mathis ’18, enters Dartmouth from Greer, South Carolina, as a promising player. She has been ranked as high as number 23 in the nation for her age group, and has competed in WTA Futures events. Julia Schroeder ’18, from Winnetka, Illinois, rounds out the class. She has been ranked as high as 52nd nationally in the past year.

The fall season features five competitions for the women, wrapping up with the Big Green Invitational in Hanover from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.