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Men’s Tennis Extends NEWMAC Dominance

By Bob Aronstam

STAFF WRITER

The men’s tennis team successfully defended their New England Men and Women’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship Saturday with wins over Springfield College and Babson College.

MIT has dominated the conference since its inception in the 1998-1999 season. The Engineers are now 16-0 in NEWMAC tournament match play and also have a perfect regular season record during their four-year reign as top team in the conference.

MIT claimed four straight-set singles wins against Springfield. Winners for MIT were Andrew V. Kolesnikov ’03 (6-0, 6-2), Michael H. Ogrydziak ’04 (6-3, 7-5), Eric C. Makhni ’05 (6-3, 6-1), and Luke D. Tomycz ’02 (6-2, 6-3). As is custom in tournament play, the remaining two singles matches were not played to completion because the overall match had already been decided.

One of the unfinished matches was the rematch of MIT’s Jeffrey P. Augustyn ’03 and Springfield’s Jake Logan. Their match on April 20 had gone to three sets, with Augustyn emerging victorious. Their tournament match last seemed poised to go to three sets, as well. However, the match was halted with Logan serving at 6-5 in the second set. Augustyn swept the first set 6-0, but fell behind 5-1 in the second set before closing the gap to 5-5. Augustyn had 18 winners, one ace, and eight double faults in slightly less than two sets.

MIT beats Babson in finals

For the second consecutive year, MIT defeated Babson 4-0 in the finals of the NEWMAC Championship. Winners for MIT were Augustyn (7-5, 6-2), Kolesnikov (6-3, 6-2), Walton W. Lin ’04 (6-2, 6-3), and Tomycz (6-1, 6-0).

Augustyn went up a break early in the first set of his match, thanks in part to a pair of forehand winners in the second game. It was clear the Augustyn would try to take advantage of his opponent’s weaker serve. For the most part, Augustyn controlled the rallies early in the set. However, a handful of errors in the fifth game cost him a service game. This was the first of five consecutive service breaks in the first set. The Babson player held serve in the tenth game, tying the score at 5-5.

Augustyn broke the stalemate by pounding a clean backhand winner in the next game. The next game, Augustyn’s opponent double faulted on set point. Augustyn, who broke his opponent’s serve four times in the set, dominated the second set of the match. The second set was not as one-sided as score indicates, however. Especially early in the second set, the Babson player hit more effective shots deep in the corners than he had in the first set.

However, Augustyn had answers to most of his opponent’s shots. He scrambled to stay in the points long enough for his opponent to make an error. Eventually, the Babson player was unable to maintain to rally for more than a few shots. Since unforced errors from his opponent were plentiful, Augustyn needed only four winners in the second set to win by a score of 6-2. On the match, Augustyn had 17 winners, two aces, and three double faults.

Kolesnikov overpowers retriever

Kolesnikov’s Babson opponent had an unusual style of play that sharply contrasted Kolesnikov’s big-serving, aggressive style. The Babson player hit primarily soft slices on both the forehand and backhand side. The unique combination of offensive and defensive styles in this match created numerous interesting points that are rarely seen between two strong baseline players, the norm in college-level tennis. On most points, Kolesnikov pounced on the short slices from his opponent and approached the net. Occasionally, the Babson opponent came up with passing shot or drop shot winners that elicited loud cheers from the Babson faithful. The normally stoic Kolesnikov seemed to have difficulty keeping a straight face after such points.

Kolesnikov won by wide margins in both sets. However, the Babson opponent did not surrender without making a great deal of noise. Several hotly contested line calls were sprinkled throughout the match. One particularly fiery verbal remark came from the Babson player after his serve was broken in a game that progressed through numerous deuces.

In the end, line calls were not what decided the match. It was clear that the pesky Babson player could not keep up with Kolesnikov’s offensive play.

The tennis team faces Bates College on Wednesday in a match that may have playoff implications for the Engineers. MIT is still clinging to hopes of securing a spot in the NCAA Division III East Regionals, to be held on the second weekend in May.