Once again the Caltech men’s tennis squad will face a daunting schedule. However, the Beavers are armed with a strong set of returning players to help bolster their chances for a successful season in 2012.
“We face tough competition each time we step onto the court but with the experience on this season’s squad, I believe we are ready to compete,” head coach Mandy Gamble said. “We have improved leadership and this is helping our preparation for the season already.”
Leading the group of returning players will be a trio of individuals who competed against some of the nation’s best in 2011. Devashish Joshi played the entire 2011 season No. 1 singles player. The sophomore will, once again, be called upon to lead the Beavers, both as their top seed and one of the team captains. His experience playing some of California’s best tennis players will make him a great asset on and off the court.
The duo of Anish Agarwal and Luka Mernik competed at either the No. 2 or No. 3 single slots for most of the 2011 season. This year, they will help serve as captains for the upcoming campaign.
Also serving as captains this season are Brian Kim and Fred Zhao. Kim played more than 10 matches in the top six singles spots while the senior, Zhao, has competed in a vast array of intercollegiate matches during his time at Caltech and will bring a wealth of experience to the young squad. Amol Kamat will also provide stability to the line-up this year after recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him out all of last season.
After the conclusion of the Caltech basketball season, Alex Runkel will join the singles rotation, as well. The junior played mostly at the No. 5 slot last season. With a powerful serve, Runkel has the ability to control the point against almost any opponent.
“Alex’s serve is terrific. If he can come in behind it, he could be a big factor in the team winning matches.” Gamble said. “John Chen, Amol Kamat, and Jeff Shen will provide valuable depth to the team. Just as importantly, they are team players and will serve the program however they are asked.”
There are also a handful of first year players to keep an eye on. During preseason practice Ryan Batterman asserted himself against the returning players and could see playing time in the top six early in the season.
The Beavers boast a relatively large freshman class, this year. These players, all skilled in their own right, will soon be a force to be reckoned with as they gain NCAA experience over the next few seasons. However, some freshman, like Chi Chi An and Ryan Batterman, have already asserted themselves against the returning players during preseason and could see early playing time.
“Both Ryan and Chi Chi have really played well the first several practices. If they continue to progress at this pace, they are going to make this team more competitive,” Gamble said.
Caltech is scheduled to play five teams currently ranked in the nation’s preseason top 30, including a match in mid-March against No. 1 Amherst. The SCIAC currently boasts of four teams among the nation’s elite.
“We play a hard schedule each year and we are proud to face teams on a weekly basis who will push us towards the next level,” Gamble said.