Tennis heading for NCAA tournament

Mercyhurst College junior Kim Ezzo looks to lead the women’s tennis team to a first-round victory.Mercyhurst College junior Kim Ezzo looks to lead the women’s tennis team to a first-round victory.For the first time since 2003-2004, the men’s and women’s tennis team, have both made the NCAA Tournament.

The men’s team will face against Kutztown University in the first round, while the women’s team plays East Stroudsburg University.

The Lakers have utilized their excellent depth and strong number one players to help both of the teams make it to the biggest tournament of the year

“We have good depth this year, with six to seven players who play really well for us. Both of our number one players, juniors Kim Ezzo and Keith Whittingham, have been superb,” head coach Ray Yost said.

“It is very nice to be winning the amount of number one singles matches we have without recruiting internationally,” Yost said.

Team unity has also factored into the tennis teams’ success this season.

“They are a real tight group, good buddies. They don’t interfere with each other and they really interact with each other well,” Yost said.

There has also been a good core of senior players who have been essential to the men’s success.

“The seniors have good work ethics; they work hard and play hard. They are really into tennis and it shows,” Yost said.

One of the biggest reasons for the Lakers’ success has been Yost himself, who was named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

“It was nice to receive that honor. Players usually come up to you after the match and say good job when the team wins, so it’s nice to be recognized, and without winning the PSAC Championship, it is really nice to receive it,” Yost said.

Yost feels that both teams have a shot to win a round or two.

“If we could get out of the first round that would be an unbelievable accomplishment, and both the boys and girls have a good chance,” Yost said.

“The boys have faced Kutztown twice before and we have lost both by four points, but if we can beat them we have a good chance in the second round if we can make it there,” Yost said.

“The girls play East Stroudsburg in the first round, and we have beaten them 7-2 both times this year,” Yost said.

“In the second round we more than likely will have to play California University of Pennsylvania, which has an incredible team,” Yost said.

Even if the teams do not advance past the first round, Yost is very proud of the way both teams have performed.

“Anytime we are 19-8 and 13-11, I am very happy,” Yost said.

“We play four Division I teams and top Division III teams, so we play a very tough schedule,” Yost said.

However, if things continue to fall into place, maybe Yost will not have to be happy simply making the tournament.