Men's Tennis Heads into Spring with Depth, Experience

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The deep freeze that has enveloped the region this winter hasn’t given the Muhlenberg men’s tennis team many options for practice locations. When the Mules open the season Lafayette tomorrow night, they’ll have no shortage of options to fill the lineup.

Ben Berkowitz “We are pretty deep top to bottom” senior Ben Berkowitz said. “A lot of teams have a great top two players but then a huge drop-off after that. That isn’t the case with us. Everyone can compete with everyone.”

Berkowitz and company are hoping that internal competition, and the experience gained by a young Mules squad a year ago, is evident when they take the court against someone other than themselves. Ten of the 13 non-freshmen on the team saw action in at least one league match a year ago, and seven have at least 20 matches to their name.

Berkowitz (left) and fellow senior and second-year captain Jason Teitelbaum (right) have plenty of experience to share with their younger counterparts. Teitelbaum, who steps into the No. 2 singles spot, is the Mules’ active leader with 42 victories, split evenly between doubles and singles. Berkowitz, who will play No. 3, is the leader with 24 career singles victories.

Junior Daniel Lakhman is back at the head of the Muhlenberg lineup. Lakhman, who led the team in singles wins last spring with five, captured the top doubles flight at the Mule Fall Classic with sophomore Max Blumenthal, the owner of three victories in the second singles slot a year ago.

Jason Teitelbaum Junior Eric Chavis, who teamed with Teitelbaum to go 8-6 (5-4 in the CC) at No. 2 doubles last year, will man the No. 4 spot, while freshman David Woods and sophomore Derrick Eng round out the singles lineup.

Junior Keith Beizer won two matches at No. 6 singles a year ago, while sophomore Neil Shulman prevailed at No. 5 singles in the Mules’ final dual match of the fall. Junior Corey Galembo has seven career victories.

“We didn’t graduate any seniors last year, so everyone has that experience under their belts,” Berkowitz said. “In that sense, we can only get better. It certainly helps the younger guys to play alongside people who have played for a couple years. Hopefully that will help us in matches.”

So too, Berkowitz hopes, will the team’s offcourt chemistry.

“I would say we are very close as a team,” Berkowitz said. “We’ve focused on coming together as a group, and that has definitely helped us on the court.”

A year ago, the Mules were in contention for a Centennial Conference playoff berth late in the season. But, needing two wins in their final three matches, Muhlenberg dropped all three to finish 4-10 overall and 2-7 in the CC. One of those setbacks was a 5-4 decision against Ursinus, which nabbed the conference’s fifth and final playoff spot.

Picked eighth in the preseason poll, the Mules hope to take on the role of dark horse in a loaded league with four teams ranked inside the top 10 in the preseason regional rankings – a list that includes Johns Hopkins, ranked 10th in Division III. Despite the tough competition, Muhlenberg hopes its depth paves the way for the program’s first winning season since 2008 – and maybe more.

“I think if we play well we can definitely contend for that final playoff spot,” Berkowitz said.