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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s Tennis looks to defend conference championship

Senior+Captain+Charles+Lai
Senior Captain Charles Lai

Coming off of a tremendous season that saw a program-record 10-game winning streak and their first Little East Conference (LEC) championship since 1990, the University of Massachusetts Boston Men’s Tennis team seems to be destined for another successful season.

Coach Eric Berg, now in his 8th season as head coach of the Beacons Men’s Tennis team, strongly believes that his squad will once again be one of the LEC’S top teams.

“As we’re starting to see some of the other teams’ rosters, I think we could be right in the thick of things,” Berg said. “We will need contributions from everyone on the roster and keep working to improve if we are going to have a legitimate chance.”

Berg, or any of his players for that matter, certainly have no reason to believe that this team won’t be successful. Seniors Eglis Bizhoti, Sean Cullen, and Charles Lai were all named to the Little East All-Conference team a season ago. Lai, who was one of the two captains from last year, will be the undisputed leader of the team.

“I think realizing that, hey, we can actually get another (conference title) this year, it has been motivating us to work even harder,” Lai said. “Naturally we did feel content and satisfied for a while, but after that feeling faded, we wanted more and to get another title.”

“[Lai] is better prepared both physically and mentally at this point than he was his previous two years.” Berg said of his star player. “He is very self-motivated and the team means a lot to him. As the only returning captain from last year, he has assumed a large share of the leadership role. I know he wants to finish on a strong note, and I believe he will.”

The team also welcomes the return of senior Brian Sou, a solid player who took last season off, and incoming freshmen Jon Feng and Jack Wang. Coach Berg on both Wang and Feng: “They are both talented players and great guys. With the loss of a couple of starters from the fall season, they will now see a lot more playing time in the lineup and will be key players to the success that we have.”

Lai agrees with his coach on the potential of the incoming freshman, especially Wang, “One person who has really impressed me with how much he improves by each practice and match is Jack Wang. He’s got a great attitude and is so hungry to improve. I think he is going to play a crucial part if we’re going to be successful this year.”  Junior Julio Baez and Senior Lyle Analetto, who should be two key contributors this year, round out the rest of the roster.

Coach Berg also welcomes former Captain Alex Loyer to his coaching staff this upcoming season. A member of the last year’s championship team, Loyer was a two-time LEC All-Conference selection and was named the 2013 LEC Tournament MVP. Coach Berg is excited to have the former star player on his staff.

“Alex has already made a big impact on our teams,” Berg said. “We saw it with the women in the fall and things will be no different with the men. He is a very calming presence to the players during matches and he has a very sharp eye when noticing things or offering advice…we are very happy to have him on our side.”

The Beacons opened up their defense of their Little East crown on Feb. 28 with a road match against the high-powered MIT Engineers. Despite playing solidly against the 26th-ranked team in the country, the team came up short. Both Coach Berg and Captain Lai know that a repeat won’t be easy, but despite the result at MIT, they still believe this team will be successful.

“Last year was a storybook type of season where everything fell into place for us from start to finish… so I don’t think anything will come easy for us,” Berg said, “This team is hungry, and I truly believe that we can win another LEC championship this year.”

Lai added, “I’m looking for a lot of fight right off the bat from these guys. We have a couple of rookies this year and some of us are playing higher in the lineup. It will be exciting to see how the work we put in so far will translate into our matches.”