24 March 2016: Davidson takes on Dayton in A10 men’s tennis action at the Davidson Tennis Courts in Davidson, North Carolina. Credit – Tim Cowie – DavidsonPhotos.com

Ian Robertson

Staff Writer

Every point matters. Such a mantra seems drastically oversimplified and straightforward, potentially overlooking the many other aspects of the game that go into being a successful tennis player, or any athlete for that matter. If the Davidson Men’s Tennis Team hopes to be crowned A-10 Champions, they’ll need their game to be firing on all cylinders come tournament time.

With the Conference Tournament set to begin on Thursday, the Wildcats hope they can build off what was a remarkably strong entrance into the A-10 this past Spring. While their overall record of 11-9, compared to last year’s strikingly similar 12-10 record, does not concretely indicate the gains that the team has made this season, their notable success in conference plays speaks volumes to the talent the team possesses.

Such talent, which notably includes last year’s A-10 All-Conference stand-outs Shamael Chaudhry ’18 and Artem Khrapko ’18, could very well carry them to a Conference title. The strength of the team lies heavily on the shoulders of the sophomore class, with fellow sophomore David Hager ’18 also adding significant depth to the squad with consistent success at the Singles position. Their young talent, coupled with last year’s Team MVP J.B. Gough ’17, are clear indicators of their ability to contend for an A-10 Title.

The team’s early struggles have been long forgotten, with the Cats’ 7-3 record and 5-match winning streak within the last month suggesting that the team seems to be peaking at just the right moment. They are 4-1 in conference play, and have shown dominance at times with an assertive 4-0 win over Duquesne and a 5-1 win over St. Joseph’s. Notably, they prevailed over George Mason, who knocked them out of last year’s A-10 Conference tournament, with a well-deserved 4-2 victory. Such a win gives the team both confidence and suggests that last year’s general success was anything but a fluke.

This past weekend’s matches were the team’s last chances to work out any final adjustments prior to the tournament, with the ‘Cats hosting Appalachian State on the 9th and College of Charleston the following day. Against Appalachian State, a team which last year’s squad had faltered against, Davidson showed stark improvement, winning 6-1 in cumulative match play. Overcoming an early defeat in doubles play, the ‘Cats responded by dominating on the singles side. Chaudhry cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory at the first singles position, while Khrapko fought through a back and forth match to win 7-5, 7-5, chalking up his 10th overall victory of the year. Hager, Gough, and Jack Riazzi ’18 also contributed strong performances to assure the victory.

Hosting College of Charleston the following day, the ‘Cats fell into a similar position, again struggling at the doubles position. However, unlike their previous match, they were unable to overcome the early defeat and came up just short with a 4-3 loss. With both teams each winning 3 matches at the singles position, the deciding factor ultimately ended up being the early doubles defeat. Khrapko followed up his performance against Appalachian State with another victory to make it 11 for the year, while fellow sophomores Hager and Riazzi also picked up wins for the Cats’.

Sounding optimistic after the narrow defeat, Coach Drew Barrett acknowledged that it was a “tough loss for the Cats,” but also believed their ability to battle back in singles play gives them “some good momentum heading into the A10 Tournament.” The team can both hope, and needs to believe, that such momentum and talent could very well materialize into the makings of a Conference Champion team.