Sophomore Rob Ferrante and men's tennis have a 17-1 overall record, earning them the number one seed. Peter Caty/The Mirror

Sophomore Rob Ferrante and men's tennis have a 17-1 overall record, earning them the number one seed. Peter Caty/The Mirror

This spring the Stags men’s and women’s tennis teams have quietly put together impressive seasons. Both teams are expected to find success at the MAAC tournaments that will be played this weekend in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. The men enter the tournament as the number one seed and earned a bye for the first round. The women are the number two seed and are favored in the first round.

Veteran leadership and youth combine for men

During the Stags men’s tennis fall tournaments, head coach Ed Paige noticed that there was something special about his team.

‘It really all started at the Dartmouth Tournament,’ Paige said. ‘Dan [Sauter] had big wins against highly ranked Ivy League opponents and we had big wins in doubles.’

At that tournament, played Nov. 1 and 2 in Hanover, N.H., the Stags had both Sauter and Ryan Berthod advance past the first round. Sauter fell in the semifinals of the tournament.
Now as the Stags prepare for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament, Paige’s observations have proved to be true. His team is 17-1, with a lone loss to Villanova and an undefeated conference season. Senior Chip Palumbo has been a perfect leader for the Stags, while a trio of freshmen have led the way.

Those freshmen, Aaron Chan, Joe Michalisin and Dan Sauter are a combined 53-13 in singles play.

‘The freshmen have not played like freshmen,’ Paige said. ‘Joe and Dan have big games, great first serves and are consistent. Aaron is very, very talented. He had very big wins at Marist and UConn.’

Meanwhile, three returning players, Palumbo (16-5), junior Ryan Berthod (16-12) and sophomore Rob Ferrante’ (14-11) have also been key contributors. Palumbo, Berthod and Sauter have all been ranked by the ITA as the best players in the nation, the first time any Fairfield players have ever been ranked.

Fairfield will face a tough task in the MAAC tournament, where it lost in the finals to Marist last season, a team the Stags defeated 5-2 at home earlier this season.

‘The Marist win was huge,’ Paige said. ‘We are not sure who we are playing yet, but it will be a tough matchup, we have to play at our best.’

The Stags will face either Loyola, St. Peter’s or Niagara in their first round of play with a chance to move to the finals.

Paige said that the team has to play with an attitude where they are not ‘afraid to lose.’
‘It’s been a good run, we broke the Fairfield record for team wins, but the big prize is still ahead,’ said Paige.

Balanced effort leads to strong play for women

With a 13-4 record overall and a 6-1 record in the MAAC, the Stags women’s team has also had an impressive season, only to be overshadowed by their male counterparts.
Junior Paulina Rys, now in her third season as one of the team’s top singles players, has led the way for the Stags again, with a 22-8 record and is riding a 14-game winning streak.

‘Paulina has played phenomenally,’ Paige said. ‘She can do more with the ball than others. She has a slice with her back hand that can bring the opponent in.’

The doubles play of Rys and freshman partner Kristen Liu has also been particularly strong for the Stags as they have a 14-4 record together. The team’s other singles teams, junior Dana Postupack and seniors Marisa Voloshin (10-3), as well as juniors Michaela Cerrone and Gretchen Amberg (10-3), have also been keys to the season.

Last season, the Stags entered the MAAC tournament as one of the favorites to win, but like the men, fell in the finals to Marist 7-0. The women were able to defeat Marist this past spring, but lost to Niagara 4-3 on April 3.

‘If we remain levelheaded and take it one match at a time, we have a shot,’ Paige said. ‘To win, we have to play error free tennis, as error free as possible.’

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