Jan. 9, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Thirteen wins. Seven-match winning streak. Highest seed ever in the BIG EAST tournament. Top-10 percent in APR. One player named First Team All-BIG EAST. It was a remarkable year for the Villanova men's tennis team in 2013 as the team enjoyed its best season in recent memory.
Fast forward to the 2014 season and the Wildcats believe they can use those recent achievements to catapult them forward and make the upcoming season something special.
"Building upon our success from last season, finishing in the top three or four in the conference is definitely a feasible goal," said Villanova senior Ryan Peyton. "We played really great teams tough last season and if we could use that lesson and build on it, we have a serious chance to make some noise."
Peyton leads all current members on the team in career singles victories with a 54-46 (.540) mark in the past three and a half seasons, while playing in all but the No. 1 slot. In doubles action, he ranks second amongst his teammates, sitting only behind fellow senior Thomas O'Brien with a 56-35 record.
One of the leaders of the team, he has seen this program transform into a team that reached its highest seed in the BIG EAST Championships, No. 6, last spring.
"We've already done a lot to make the program better than the day we walked in the door," Peyton added. "Now it's more building on what we've done and taking it to the next level. The work ethic is now there that wasn't before and we're becoming a serious contending program. We have a chance to be ranked in the top-75, if we really do well."
With the departure of powerhouse programs like Notre Dame, Louisville and USF, the top of the BIG EAST standings should be up for grabs. Last year, the Wildcats were competitive against some of the nation's top teams. The problem was finishing and Peyton believes they have another level to reach which could put them over the hump.
"We know how to defend against the teams we will play in our conference and know what they do and what we need to do in order to win the match. If we win the doubles point, we have a shot. The three seniors have felt like we've done a good job teaching and preaching to the younger players our mindset," said Peyton.
Leadership is something Peyton and his fellow seniors take upon themselves to educate the younger players. Along with O'Brien and Matt Colonnese, the group does their part in organizing practices and workouts on their own even when not told to do so. Peyton talks about helping out and mentoring the other guys since it is his duty as a Wildcat to build a tradition they are trying to instill for the future.
"We want to really show (the underclassmen) that we are dedicated. I like doing a lot of extra stuff and going out working on my own to better my game. You've got to show them that doing stuff on your own is important and sort of lead by example," Peyton added.
A Newport Beach, Calif. native, Peyton took a shot on Villanova for two reasons. He knew the school was prestigious and highly respected and he looked for an opportunity where he could play right away. The small, private school from Pennsylvania satisfied both those requests and Peyton and his family was convinced it was a perfect match.
Enrolled in the Villanova School of Business, Peyton is seeking an Economics degree. Last summer, he worked for Entrepreneurship Magazine as an Editorial Intern and hopes that experience will propel him to land a job in banking or doing analyst work on the East Coast after graduation in May.
But before Peyton graduates and goes on to bigger and better things, he hopes to make his final season something to remember. The senior credits his confidence and experience for his past success and vows to play better during big-time conference matches.
"I'm the most confident I've ever been since I've played so many matches. I used to be so nervous playing matches freshman season, especially against the big teams," added Peyton. "Now it's just like another match and I know I've been here before. I know my wins are important and maybe it could show the other guys that their win could constitute a point which ends up being the deciding factor."
If Villanova is going to be ranked for the first time in school history, big performances by Peyton will need to come on a consistent basis.