LANCASTER, Pa. – With the spring season less than two weeks away, the Ursinus College men's tennis team has been voted seventh in the Centennial Conference preseason poll.
The Bears earned 36 points in a sampling of the league's coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Johns Hopkins is the runaway favorite to claim a 12th consecutive CC crown, collecting eight first-place votes and 80 points. Swarthmore (73 points) and Haverford (62) split the remaining two first-place ballots, while Franklin & Marshall (56) and Washington College (48) rounded out the forecasted playoff field. Dickinson (41) was sixth), followed by Ursinus (36), Gettysburg (24), Muhlenberg (21), and McDaniel (9).
The Bears bring back most of their lineup, including their top two players, from a squad that finished 12-7 overall and narrowly missed out on a playoff berth with a 4-5 record in conference play. With many experienced contributors returning to the fold, and the addition of some promising newcomers, Ursinus has the pieces in place to challenge for its first playoff appearance in five years.
Senior Max Oberholtzer headlines the incumbent crew after another standout season in which he collected second team All-CC singles honors and received all-conference honorable mention in doubles alongside junior Paul Vecchio. The only player in program history to be named All-CC in both singles and doubles in multiple seasons, Oberholtzer was 12-6 out of the top spot a year ago, which included a 3-3 mark in CC matches. He currently ranks sixth in school history with 33 singles wins.
Oberholtzer and Vecchio finished 13-6 last season and have 24 doubles victories together over the last two years. Vecchio, who was 8-13 in singles play, is one win shy of becoming the 14th Ursinus player to reach 50 for his career.
Head coach Pete Smith's squad expects to get a big boost from freshman Mason Groff, who slides right into the number two spot in the singles lineup. A two-time Colonial League champion at Salisbury High School, Groff won the 2016 PIAA doubles championship and was runner-up in the District XI singles and doubles tournament as a senior.
Senior Peter Shields gives the Bears plenty of experience and a consistent presence in the middle of the ladder. Shields was 9-7 overall and 4-3 in CC matches at fifth singles last season, and also ranks seventh in school history with 29 doubles wins.
Sophomore Connor DeFaber-Schumacher and freshman Matt Fontanese fill out the lineup for Ursinus. DeFaber-Schumacher has limited singles experience but performed well on the doubles court as a rookie, going 9-7 in dual matches at number three. As a senior in high school last year, Fontanese helped lead Northern Highlands Regional to its first sectional title since 2004.
Junior Jake Lachowicz was 4-1 at number six singles a year ago.
The Bears play a dual match against Arcadia at Green Valley Country Club on February 24 before heading down to Florida for their annual spring trip.