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Somerset, NJ --
Fairleigh Dickinson was dominant in its run to the 2012 NEC men’s tennis title, but if league coaches are right, a new challenger will give the Knights a run for their money.
FDU finished first in the poll and collected five first place votes, but just one vote separated the Knights from newcomer Bryant, now eligible to compete in the NEC Championship after completing its five-year NCAA reclassification. The Bulldogs earned three first place tallies. Quinnipiac was awarded the remaining two first place votes and finished third in the poll.
Monmouth landed in fourth place, followed by Sacred Heart in fifth and Mount St. Mary’s in sixth. Saint Francis U was voted seventh by the coaches with Robert Morris, St. Francis Brooklyn and Wagner rounding out the poll, claiming the eighth, ninth and tenth spots, respectively.
The Mercer County Tennis Center in West Windsor, NJ will once again serve as the venue for the 10-team single-elimination championship from April 18-21. The winner will earn the NEC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament field.
2013 Northeast Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Fairleigh Dickinson (5)
2. Bryant (3)
3. Quinnipiac (2)
5. Sacred Heart
6. Mount St. Mary’s
7. Saint Francis U
8. Robert Morris
9. St. Francis Brooklyn
First place votes in parentheses
won its 11th NEC championship last season - a wire-to-wire performance, so to speak, for the Knights. FDU went 7-0 in NEC play and did not drop a single match in the NEC Tournament. But there was an offseason changing of the guard in Teaneck, with longtime head coach Ira Miller departing and his assistant, Jonathan Buchman, assuming the reins. Buchman has the luxury of sending out four first team All-NEC competitors each and every match, one of whom, sophomore Arvis Berzins (Adazi, Latvia/Riga Centre Language School)
, is FDU's franchise player. Last season, Berzins became just the second performer in league history to earn dual NEC Player and Rookie of the Year honors, and at one point set a conference record by claiming five straight NEC Rookie of the Week awards. He finished 15-4 playing #1 singles and did not lose in seven matches against NEC rivals. FDU’s three other all-stars are all seniors. Ibrahim Shams (Cairo, Egypt/Manor House)
went 14-5 overall and 6-0 in the NEC at #2 singles. Yuri Gricheno (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Colegio Amorim)
is a two-time All-NEC award recipient who won 15 matches on the year, and was 3-1 in league play competing at the #3 flight. Peter Skvarka (Banska Bystrica, Slovakia/Gymnazium J.G. Tajovskeho)
was honored for his play at #5 singles a year ago, and won five of his 15 matches versus conference talent.
and seventh year head coach Ron Gendron have been chomping at the bit for a chance to compete for the NEC championship, and after a stellar 2011-12 season, the Bulldogs could have that opportunity come this April. Loaded with top-tier talent, Bryant brings back three players who were selected second team All-NEC and added an impact freshman in the offseason. A two-time honoree and former NEC Rookie of the Year, Dana Parziale (Pinehurst, NJ/Pinecrest)
ranked second in the league with 20 wins and amassed a 6-3 mark at #2 singles. Ernesto Arguello (Managua, Nicaragua/American Nicaraguan School)
and Juan Gonzalez-Paz (San Juan, Puerto Rico/Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola)
were #4 and #5 flight all-stars a year ago. Both finished 3-1 against the NEC and combined for 30 victories on the year. Freshman Max Vogt (Fair Oaks, CA/Granite Bay)
has already earned NEC Player and Rookie of the Month honors for his play last October, and has posted an team-best eight wins at present time.
has its sights set on the program’s fifth NEC crown and first since 2010. The dean of NEC coaches, Mike Quitko, returns five-of-six starters, and with six seniors, could be the most experienced team in the conference. Junior Corey Morgenstern (Old Bethpage, NY/Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy)
and sophomore Eric Ambrosio (Lloyd Harbor, NY/Cold Spring Harbor)
led the Bobcats last season with 14 wins apiece and combined for eight victories versus league foes. The 2012 NEC semifinalists also return Alex Lazerowich (Stratham, NH/Exeter/New Hampton School),
who is off to a strong start in his senior season with 13 victories to date.
has been one of the NEC's most consistent programs in recent years with three NEC title match appearances since 2007 and an impressive run to the finals last season. This past January, former Texas A&M standout Cory Hubbard was tabbed head coach following a two-year stint at Fordham. Hubbard inherits a young roster with just three returnees and four freshman in the fold. The best of the bunch is sophomore Freddy Marcinkowski (Sparta, NJ/Sparta)
, a #1 flight player and NEC second team all-star who led the Hawks with 18 victories and posted a 6-3 league record in his first season in West Long Branch. Newcomer Ramy Bekhiet (Robbinsville, NJ/Robbinsville)
showed promise with five wins over the fall.
struck gold in 2009 and 2011, winning the program's first two NEC titles, but head coach Paul Gagliardi has had to overhaul the roster since that point with so many key fixtures lost to graduation following the second championship run. This year's edition will feature six newcomers and three returnees, one of whom, sophomore Justin Pagan (Flushing, NY/St. Mary's)
, posted a 3-3 record within the conference last season primarily based out of the #4 flight. Newcomer Matt Dean (Newington, CT/Rocky Hill)
, a freshman, leads the team with seven wins at present time.
Mount St. Mary's
certainly has the opportunity to make a run up the NEC standings with all the key pieces back in place for ninth year head coach Phil Hammond. Senior Mike Salomon (Haymarket, VA/Seton School)
comes off a junior year that can be considered nothing short of sensational. In sparking Mount St. Mary's to its first NEC semifinal appearance in six years, he became the first Mount player to earn first team All-Conference accolades since 2006 after leading the league by a wide margin with 28 wins and an .848 win percentage. Salomon posted a 5-0 record within the league and was 14-3 in #4 flight play. He is joined by seven other upperclassmen, including Matthew Blake (Garnet Valley, PA/Salesianum (DE))
, a #1 flight player who went 9-2 in the fall.
Third year head coach Paul Tobin has done a superb job raising the talent level within the Saint Francis U
program, and it showed last year when the Red Flash won seven of their final 11 matches to close out the season. A pair of then-freshman - Sergio Carvajal (Nueva Esparta, Venezuela/U.E. Fray Elias Maria Sendra)
and Chris Jimenez (Bayside, NY/St. Francis Prep)
- were instrumental in the turnaround, combining for 27 victories on the year competing at #3 and #5 singles, respectively.
and head coach Jeff Layman bring back four players this year, most notably Andre Coiro (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
, who finished a perfect 6-0 against conference competitors and earned second team All-NEC plaudits at #3 singles. Classmate Jose Limon (Colonia San Jose, Mexico)
produced an 11-9 overall record and 4-1 slate in NEC play last season.
St. Francis Brooklyn
will sport a nice mix of youth and experience this season under veteran head coach Chad Davis. One player to keep an eye on is senior Martin Grunin (Brooklyn, NY/St. Edmund Prep).
Grunin finished with a 9-8 record in 2011-12 and finished 4-2 in league play competing at #5 singles for the most part.
is one of three NEC teams with first year head coaches this season after welcoming Nikita Zotov to the fold. Zotov, who played collegiately at Iowa, will look to jumpstart a program that returns just two players, seniors Christian Rautenstrauch (Charlotte, NC/Providence Day)
and Taylor Santoro (Absecon, NJ/St. Augustine Prep)
About The Northeast Conference
Now in its 32nd year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 12 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website (www.northeastconference.org) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube @NECsports.