Ball in their court
Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 23:03
A rainy weekend in Washington, D.C., was enough to cancel a match against George Washington but became a welcome respite from a long season for the Duquesne men’s tennis team.
The Dukes used the weekend off to rest and get healthy for the Atlantic 10 championship as the end of the season approaches. They didn’t dwell on the fact that they wouldn’t compete against George Washington, the team predicted to finish first in the conference, but rather rested before this weekend’s match against two conference foes, Xavier and Dayton.
The Dukes are 12-6 overall and 3-0 in the conference and are led by senior and 2011 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Aram Abgaryan and freshmen Rich Robbie and Alex Aleman, who were both A-10 Rookies of the Week this season.
Of the six on the team who compete in singles and doubles, three are freshmen and one is a sophomore.
Head coach Rob Castille said the youth of the team is an advantage.
“We definitely have a young team, and we were looking at the new guys coming in to help us out and contribute, and some of the new additions [Aleman, Robbie and Mehdi Mekaoui] have really helped out,” Castille said. “They’ve made the team a lot stronger. Two of our sophomores have a year of playing collegiate tennis under their belt, so that’s helped them to mature and handle situations well.”
“The new freshmen, me, Alex and Mehdi, are bringing a depth to the lineup that we might have not had this year,” Robbie said. “[And] our sophomores are real strong and doing a great job.”
Ultimately, the Dukes’ goal is to finish at the top of the conference. The team placed fourth last year and third the year before, but half of this season’s lineup is new to collegiate tennis and can help the team to succeed.
Castille said the freshmen will be looked upon at A-10s to show what they have learned throughout conference play this season.
“Three of our top six guys are freshmen, so we’re looking towards them to continue to become more comfortable in press situations of playing in conference matches,” Castille said. “Hopefully, they’ll be good to go once the A-10 championship starts in a couple weeks.”
With a weekend of relaxation under their belts, the team didn’t look negatively on their inability to travel to Washington, D.C., but rather took it as a blessing and a weekend to regenerate their health.
Abgaryan listed team health as the top reason the Dukes have prospered this season, as well as new talent and the Dukes’ friendship as a team.
“We were pretty healthy [this season] and we stayed pretty healthy,” Abgaryan said. “We don’t have any injuries. We got a couple of new guys that really helped with our depth ... [and] we really bond as a team ... I think the biggest point is that we stayed really healthy throughout the season.”
The Dukes will spend their weekend traveling to Ohio to compete against Xavier and Dayton, then have a match against Niagara April 6 before heading to the A-10 Conference Championship the next week on April 13. The championship will be held across three days in Ohio.