Jan. 17, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Villanova men's tennis team will begin its quest for the program's first BIG EAST Championship Saturday in Hanover, N.H. when the Wildcats open their fall season with a dual-match doubleheader against Bryant University and Dartmouth College.
Last season, the Wildcats enjoyed their most successful season in school history. Villanova scored 13 wins, including a seven-match winning streak and their highest seed ever in the BIG EAST tournament, No. 6. They also achieved high marks academically, earning top-10 percent in the annual academic progress report for their respective sport.
With the 2014 season rolling around, Villanova hopes to surpass last season's accomplishments and catapult into a deep run into the conference tournament. Coach Adams talked about complacency and how the team needs to stay focused on the task at hand and just not settle for above average but instead strive to be great.
"I think the leaders - Thomas O'Brien, Matt Colonnese and Ryan Peyton - are very excited on what they were able to accomplish as a group last year, achieving one of the better records and highest seeds in program history. But I think they are very motivated to try and be better than last year and not become complacent on what happened last season," Adams added. "They know as leaders that nothing is going to be handed to them and they are very motivated to keep the ball moving in a positive direction and work harder than they did last year."
The Wildcats will compete in 25 matches this season, including several contests against some of the top programs in the country at the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament during spring break. Villanova challenged themselves this year by scheduling matches against schools like UC Davis, UCLA, Pepperdine and William and Mary.
Last season, the Wildcats fell to a ranked USF squad in the conference tournament after receiving a sixth seed, their highest seed in program history. Villanova will not have to worry about the Bulls this season since conference realignment shaped up the BIG EAST.
"With losing premier teams like USF, Notre Dame and Louisville in our conference, I think if we put together a very good year on and off the court we do have a chance to become a top-level team within the BIG EAST," Adams added.
Since all 10 teams in the BIG EAST are high quality opponents and the conference is wide open, coach Adams believes the challenging schedule will prepare his squad come conference tournament time.
With a tough schedule, the Wildcats will have to be on top of their game from the get-go. In order to be ready, Villanova will lean heavily on their leaders, seniors Thomas O'Brien, Ryan Peyton and Matt Colonnese.
"Even though we are returning everybody, a lot of the other teams have new additions so my big thing for the season is that we can't be using the success of last year for this year, expecting wins. I am trying to let the guys know that every match is going to be a battle," Adams said.
At the No. 1 doubles slot, top duo O'Brien and Kelly Donaldson will defend their undefeated fall season when doubles action will kick things off for the Wildcats. During tournament play, the program's winningest pair won championships in all three events they participated in together after finishing a perfect 11-0 in the fall.
Last season, O'Brien earned All-BIG EAST honors after finishing with a "20-20" season, capping the year off with at least 20 victories in both singles and doubles action. Peyton returns to the lineup as the active leader in career singles victories and is second on the squad in career doubles wins.
The Wildcats also add three young freshmen to the squad who will be looked on to add an immediate impact even in their first year. Both Bradley Noyes and Luis Mendoza impressed in the fall season, winning their respective tournaments at the Saint Joseph's Invitational.
First serve for the back-to-back matches is set at 1 p.m. versus Bryant with the latter match taking place directly following the team's opener.
"I always want to challenge my guys on the court so when Dartmouth gave us a call I saw this as an opportunity to play one of the premier teams on the east coast," Villanova head coach Brad Adams said. "It's also a good thing doubling up with Bryant to get two matches in one day. Bryant is a team that is very similar to us as far as talent level and it's been a good rivalry over the last three years."