The Penn State Altoona men's tennis team had a strong showing in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference last spring, finishing third in the league with a 4-2 conference record. This season, the Lions will look to turn heads in the AMCC with a roster comprised largely of newcomers.
Penn State Altoona enters its 2014 campaign with few familiar faces. The team has 10 newcomers and lost nine members of last year's squad, including most of its top players. But head coach Doug Simmons is optimistic that his team is talented enough to holds its own this year.
"Unfortunately, I only have one returning starter from last year's team," said Simmons, who enters his second season as the men's tennis coach at Penn State Altoona. "But I am expecting a lot of contributions from our newcomers, including several local players who played for the Altoona Area High School tennis team. Our team has a lot of depth, so other players could step in at any time, too."
The Lions' top returner is sophomore Patrick Albright, who posted six wins in doubles and five wins in singles last year. He was voted Second Team All-AMCC in the No. 3 doubles flight at the conclusion of last season.
"Patrick will continue to play in doubles while being our No. 3 singles player. I expect him to play just as well as he did last season," Simmons said. "He's extremely consistent, and I can always count on him to fight for every single match until the bitter end."
Another returning sophomore, Tony Vergari, should assume a larger role with the team this season and contribute more regularly in both singles and doubles.
Three first-year players who played at AAHS should be mainstays in the Lions' lineup this season. Freshman Chris Reighard will be expected to step up as the No. 1 singles player and also be a regular in doubles. Sophomore Alex Albright and freshman Joseph Settimio will play No. 4 and No. 5 singles, respectively, in addition to competing in doubles.
Another freshman, Adam Hack, will play No. 2 singles and is expected to provide a strong presence on the team. The No. 6 singles spot will be up for grabs for the time being, until one of the players emerges as the best candidate to nail down the position.
As the Lions enter their 2014 schedule, Simmons knows that his team has the talent to win. But the biggest obstacle will be ensuring that the squad's young players learn how to compete at the collegiate level and become accustomed to success.
"The main issue right now is getting our team used to playing Division III tennis. With so many freshmen, our team isn't familiar with the level of competition and what is expected to win," Simmons said. "We need to work on being consistent and playing smart. I know the team will play hard, so all I ask is that everyone plays smart and that each player makes sure that they don't beat themselves."