BRIDGEWATER, Va. – One year after reaching the title match in the ODAC tournament, expectations are high for the Bridgewater College men's tennis team this spring.
"We feel like we will have a pretty strong team," Bridgewater head coach Marty Perry said. "We return an experienced group of guys to the courts."
The Eagles finished with a 13-6 record in 2012 and advanced to the ODAC final where they lost to Washington and Lee. Five of the top six players on the singles ladder return this spring.
Hawkins, one of just two seniors on the roster, played No. 1 for the Eagles and was 9-7 in singles action a year ago. "Pete is a tough out for anyone he plays," Perry said. "He's an outstanding competitor." Hawkins was an All-ODAC third team selection at No. 1 singles in 2012. He also partnered with Christian Lynn at No. 2 doubles to earn third-team all-conference recognition.
Larson played at the No. 2 spot for the Eagles and was 9-5 in dual match singles play. Larson is one of five lefthanders on the Eagles 10-man roster. "I never had a lefty play in a match for me until I came to Bridgewater. Now I have five on the team," Perry said. "Brandon is a lot like Pete. He's a very consistent player."
Evan Stack was 13-2 a year ago playing either No. 3 or No. 4 singles. "Evan plays with a lot of energy. I thought he was our sparkplug last year," said Perry.
Stack, at No. 3 singles, earned All-ODAC second-team recognition while Larsen was a third-team pick at No. 2 singles. Stack and Larsen teamed up at No. 1 doubles and were named to the All-ODAC second team.
Also returning to singles action are Lynn and Sam Churchill. Lynn was 9-7 playing mostly at the No. 5 spot. Churchill saw most of his action at No. 6 and finished the season with a 9-7 singles record. "Christian is a physically strong player and plays with a great deal of intensity. Sam had good season for us last year and really improved throughout the year," Perry said.
Lynn, at No. 5 singles, and Churchill at No. 6 both grabbed spots on the All-ODAC second team in 2012.
Looking to join the singles ladder this season is another lefty Mike Cable. Cable was 3-2 at No. 6 singles a year ago and was a consistent performer for the team in doubles play. "Mike is another guy who plays with a lot of intensity. He's eager to be in the lineup this year." Cable played No. 3 doubles a year ago with graduated teammate Brent Floyd and the duo earned All-ODAC second-team honors.
Two more veterans and a pair of freshman will vie for playing time as the season progresses. Senior Drew Hubble and sophomore Robert Belton return to the team while Ben Bowles and Austin Horner join the team for their first seasons.
Perry feels the Eagles will be very competitive in doubles play. "Practice has been very good. We put a lot of emphasis on doubles play during our practices," Perry said. "We'll find out where we are doubles-wise once match play begins."
The Eagles face a demanding non-conference schedule to start the spring season with matches against Division I Liberty, national Division III power Mary Washington, Franklin & Marshall and Salisbury looming early in the season.
"February will be a tough stretch," Perry admitted. "We'll be the underdog in all four of our matches. We're looking to push ourselves. I want the guys to realize that they have to be at their best every time they take the court. Hopefully, the tough early matches will prepare the team for a tough conference schedule."
Washington and Lee was picked No. 1 in the ODAC preseason poll with the Eagles No. 2. Guilford was next followed by Virginia Wesleyan and Emory & Henry.
"The conference should be strong at the top," Perry said. "W&L will have a very strong team and some other teams have picked it up a notch. I think you will see Virginia Wesleyan and Emory & Henry with very good teams, along with Guilford."