2007 Preview: Maryland Looks Continue Building Program in Rugged ACC
The Maryland men's tennis program, one which was not fully-funded until last season, is putting the building blocks in place to become a program to be reckoned with in the difficult Atlantic Coast Conference, a league which had eight teams ranked in the top 30 at the end of 2006.
The Terps are hopeful a solid returning nucleus and a highly-regarded recruiting class will keep Maryland moving toward the upper echelon of the league in the near future.
After losing only two members from last year's squad, Maryland will look to its seven returning letterwinners to build on the progress of last season.
This year, head coach Jim Laitta expresses the need to become more competitive in the ACC as well as a desire to advance to the NCAA tournament with a young and talented squad which features just two seniors.
"Last year was our first as fully-funded scholarship program," Laitta said. "We got better as the year went on. Our goals for this year are to improve in the ACC and become competitive. We would like to finish top 50 nationally and possibly qualify for NCAAs."
Seniors Scott Fink and John O'Rourke, as well as junior Michael Coleman will provide leadership on and off the court. Fink ended the 2006 season leading the Terps in dual match singles wins, compiling a total of 13. O'Rourke proved to be an essential member of Maryland's team, winning matches against tough conference opponents, including eighth-ranked Virginia. Coleman chipped in with 10 singles victories on the season.
Nickolai Nielsen and Andrew Orban are guiding the sophomore class and should see action at the top of the singles rotation. Nielsen and Orban were each ranked in singles play by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association during last season and were All-ACC nominees. Nielsen was also ranked in the fall, coming in No. 81 in the singles rankings.
Adding depth to Maryland's sophomore class are Boris Fetbroyt and Aaron Carr. Last year Fetbroyt combined with Josh Brauser to post eight victories at the No. 1 and 2 doubles position. Carr joined the squad last spring and posted a team-high eight singles wins in the fall.
Maryland will also look for contributions from Louis-Xavier Lavallee and Trey Taylor. Both missed most of the 2005-06 season with injuries. Lavallee proved essential to the Maryland lineup in fall, winning a title at the UNC Invitational. Taylor, an aggressive player, will be a fixture in the Terps' doubles lineup.
As one of the top recruits in the country, David Kwon joined the team in the fall boasting an impressive resume. The freshman won the St. Louis Gateway National Championship, the Gator Bowl, the Peach State Classic, and was ranked among the top five players in the nation. Kwon will be competing against his veteran teammates to earn a singles spot.
Laitta is optimistic about the Terps chances for a successful 2007 season.
"I'm probably having more fun with this team because they work extremely hard," Laitta said. "I thought that the experience that the younger guys got last year will help them this year. Our team is really motivated. We are going to try and make a statement this year."