BRIDGEWATER – The Bridgewater College men's tennis team returns five of its top seven players from the 2017 team that finished second in the ODAC regular season standings.
"We definitely have a strong group returning, but we lost two pretty good players at the top of the ladder," said head coach Jordon Robinson. "When you lose players at the top of the ladder that means guys who are returning are going to move up a spot or two. We still have our depth, which is good, and we have guys with a lot of match experience. The five returning guys will be in the top five spots."
"Joe played No. 2 most of last year and Josh played anywhere from No. 2 trough No. 4," said Robinson. "Both those guys have big games to compete at the top of the singles ladder." Rodgers was a second-team All-ODAC pick a year ago at No.4 singles.
The next three spots will be filled in some order by Nathaniel Horner, Emmett Johnson and Freddie Roberts. Horner manned the No. 5 position a year ago where he was a second-team all-conference choice. Johnson and Roberts both saw singles action at the bottom of the ladder.
"Those three guys are pretty much interchangeable," said Robinson. "Not quite sure yet what order they will be, but all three will be in the lineup."
Kris Stokes, a senior, appears to have the inside track for the No. 6 spot. "Kris has gotten a little playing time during his career, but he's worked hard and improved and I think he's ready to compete for a singles spot," Robinson said.
Sonet Gandhi should give Stokes the stiffest challenge. "Sonet got some valuable match experience late last year and he's knocking at the door," Robinson added.
Doubles play could be a key to the Eagles success this season. "We always spend a lot of time on doubles and traditionally we've been pretty good."
Dillenbeck and Rodgers return at No. 1 doubles after earning second-team All-ODAC honors at the top spot a year ago. "Joe and Josh played well a year ago at No. 1. They're a good doubles team," Robinson said.
Horner and Roberts were second-team All-ODAC at No. 3 doubles last year and this season they will step up to the No. 2 spot. "Those two had a lot of success at No. 3 doubles and they should be fine at No. 2. They've played a lot of tennis together and they have very good chemistry on the court."
Johnson will play at No. 3 double. Stokes is most likely to emerge as his partner with Gandhi also an option.
Bridgewater was picked fourth in the preseason poll and Robinson foresees a lot of close matches on the horizon.
"The conference keeps getting better," he said. "Those matches you won in the past by 8-1 or 7-2 scores are more likely to be 6-3, 5-4 matches this year.
"I think doubles play is going to be very important for us," he continued. "Being up 3-0 or 2-1 after the doubles is a big advantage."
Bridgewater opens its season on Feb. 24 when the Eagles travel to Salisbury University for a pair of weekend matches. Bridgewater plays Goucher College on Feb. 24 and Salisbury on Feb. 25.