Wesleyan men’s tennis will have ample opportunity this spring to test its mettle.
Head coach Mike Fried, who set up a challenging schedule for his young Cardinals, is hoping it will achieve the desired effect.
“When trying to bring the program up to the top national mix, we needed to do something more competitive with our spring training trip,” he said.
In past years, the Cardinals traveled to Orlando, Fla. during March break, playing 4-6 matches against high-level Divisions I, II, III and NAIA opponents, but not the top teams in Division III. Breaking from tradition, Coach Fried used his relationship with the head coach at Claremont McKenna College in California to arrange something unprecedented in Wesleyan tennis history — a chance to play in the annual Stag-Hen Invitational, hosted by Claremont. This eight-team tournament brings together some of the finest Division III talent in the country, nearly the equal of the NCAA Championship.
Coach Fried was able to make a case for his Cardinals, who come into the spring ranked 32nd nationally in Division III by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), the main governing body of the collegiate sport, after some promising fall results. Wesleyan’s number-one player, Steven Chen ’18, made an immediate name for himself by reaching the finals of the New England ITA tournament, then went on to represent the region in the national ITA tournament when the champion was unable to attend. Chen defeated the number-one player from Claremont in straight sets, then lost in three close sets to the current number-one Division III player. Chen has secured the number-five spot nationally. The Cardinals’ number-two player, Michael Liu ’17, reached the ITA semifinals and stands 19th nationally in Division III.
This kind of accomplishment no doubt helped Coach Fried make a point with
his friend at Claremont.
Wesleyan opens competition March 11 against Redlands, ranked 21st in Division III. Then comes the Stag-Hen, with Wesleyan taking on No. 2 Claremont in the opening round. The Cardinals will face either No. 5 Washington University of St. Louis or No. 12 Kenyon in a second-round match. The other four teams in the tournament field include No. 3 Trinity (Texas), No. 8 Case Western, No. 11 Pomona-Pitzer and No. 13 Whitman. Wesleyan’s third tournament match will be against one of these formidable foes.
While seven of the top 13 teams in the country join Wesleyan at the Stag-Hen, the composition of Wesleyan’s competition once it returns from the West Coast is nearly as challenging, playing in the top tennis conference in the country – the NESCAC. Defending national champion and top ranked Amherst heads the field. Middlebury, the only NESCAC squad the Cardinals will not face this spring in a dual match, is ranked fourth.
Williams is 10th; Bowdoin is 16th; Trinity (CT) is 22nd; Bates is 28th; Tufts is 29th; Colby is 33rd. The three non-conference teams Wesleyan faces after it returns from California include No. 31 Brandeis, No. 5 Washington University and No. 34 Washington & Lee.
“While the teams in the NESCAC certainly provide tremendous competition match-in and match-out, we needed to add more top Division III teams from outside the NESCAC,” Fried said.
The arrival of four outstanding newcomers this fall with Chen, Win Smith ’18, Dhruv Yadav ’18 and Cam Daniels ’18 joining the likes of last year’s top newcomers Jake Roberts ’17, Liu, Greg Lyon ’17 and Cam Hicks ’17, Wesleyan has a solid foundation for several years into the future, Fried said. Also on board are upperclass contributors Stephen Monk ’15, Sam Rudovsky ’16, Zach Brint ’16 and Michael King ’16.