By Laura Tome
The Southern Virginia University men's tennis team proved to be very successful during its inaugural year as an NCAA Division III Capital Athletic Conference member as it went 11-8 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
Had Southern Virginia Athletics not been in its inaugural NCAA provisional season, the men's tennis team would have finished fourth in the CAC and qualified for the league's postseason tournament.
The young tennis squad won five straight matches to end the season and eight of the final ten. Four of the five consecutive victories were over CAC foes, including St. Mary's (Md.) 5-4, Penn St.-Harrisburg 8-1, York (Pa.) 6-3, and Frostburg State 7-2.
"It came down to believing in ourselves at the end of the season," said head coach Tony Caputo. "We started off the season with the top teams in the conference; our first match was a home match against Mary Washington, which is ranked No. 16 in the nation. We looked for small victories and built on them going forward.
"It was a little better with Christopher Newport and then we started seeing the benefits of having six courts that we could spread out and get more quality hitting in. As the season went on we just got better and better and stronger and stronger. We have a pretty young team, but our players came to believe in themselves more and more."
Pradeep Ravisankar finished with a seventh place ranking in the No. 1 singles player bracket in the CAC with two wins and 11 loses. Dallin Evans ranked fourth in the No. 2 singles player bracket with six wins and seven losses. Cooper Brown ranked seventh in the No. 3 singles player bracket with a 6-9 record.
Zac Bowers finished third in the No. 4 singles player bracket with an 8-4 win-loss record. Adam Blocher ranked seventh in the No. 5 singles player bracket with four wins and six losses. Brian Blocher finished third in the No. 6 singles player bracket with a 6-4 record.
"The biggest turning point of the season was the St. Mary's match and the way the team came together," Caputo said. "The score of the match was 4-4 and our No. 6 guy, Brian Blocher, was the last man on the court. The way the whole team gathered around him and rooted him on to a very hard-fought, two-match singles victory was great. Everyone was so focused on him it was like they were playing their own match through him. The guys rooting him on probably felt like it was more strenuous on them than it was on Brian. Everyone was pulling for him so hard and I was so proud of our guys when we won that match."
All three doubles partners rank in the CAC's top 25 doubles leaders. The Blocher brothers and doubles partners finished eighth overall, while the twin towers Zac Bowers and Cooper Brown ranked 17th and Dallin Evans and Pradeep Ravisankar coming in at No. 24.
"Cooper Brown and Zac Bowers will be very hard to replace," Caputo said. "They were so good not just in the way they played on the court but the way they were off the court. For freshmen they had a lot of leadership ability.
"They were the hardest-working freshmen I've ever had. They were consistent, showed up to everything and always found ways to make themselves better. They worked hard in the weight room and they're perfect examples of great scholar-athletes. I would take two of those guys every year. If we can get two of them every year we'll be knocking on the door to a conference championship and be able to compete with Mary Washington and Salisbury."
The Blocher duo ranks fifth in the number three doubles bracket, Bowers-Brown ranks seventh in the number two doubles bracket and Evans-Ravisankar rank sixth in the number one doubles bracket.
The Southern Virginia University men's tennis team will look to compete at an even higher level in 2014-15 and qualify for the CAC postseason tournament.