Looking at last Thursday night's final match score of 5-4, one might figure Emerson men's tennis barely pulled out a win. But whether or not Emerson would defeat Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) in its opening non-conference match was never really in question, as the team remained confident throughout.
Embracing the lack of starters-two key players from Berklee College of Music were away on spring break-Emerson's remaining seven athletes walked onto their home court at Boston Athletic Club ready to play hard.
"We don't normally struggle against Wentworth," said Head Coach Keith Warner, explaining the team's weakened starting line-up against a team they beat 6-3 last season.
Without its third-ranked player Oliver Boyer Masutti, and Ben Thompson, both Berklee sophomores, Emerson had to adjust and rise above its shortcomings to be victorious.
Since Berklee does not have athletic teams, any student at that school is allowed to compete for Emerson.
Starting out strong, Emerson's top four singles players won each of their matches, giving the Lions four of five points needed to beat Wentworth. With Mike Huddleston, Robby Gardner and Aman Kapur all dominating 2-0 and T.J. Czupryna winning 2-1, Emerson seemed to have the match in the tennis bag.
The fifth and final point, however, did not come until the last match.
After winning four out of the six singles matches, Emerson had three more chances put Wentworth away. With three doubles matches remaining, both teams felt the intense pressure, to not only win but to do so under time-constraints. The teams were only given three hours to play the matches when normally five is allowed.
As players from both sides hurried back and fourth all around the net, there were no breaks or signs of slowing down.
Emerson wanted to clench that final win and finish the match, but the end only came after two serious battles.
After the number-one doubles team, Huddleston and Kapur, lost a hard-fought match 7-9, the heat was on Emerson's number-two doubles, Gardner and Czupryna. Minutes later, the second duo finished the match, 9-7 over Wentworth.
The team had known all along it could top Wentworth, yet getting there proved to be a matter of time and perseverance. Although Emerson lost its third doubles match 3-6, the Lions remained victorious with a majority 5-4 win.
"We were successful," said Gardner, a sophomore writing, literature and publishing (WLP) major. "We're all a little rusty, but it's early and we'll be fine."
According to Huddleston, a senior WLP major and Emerson's top player and captain, the match was a good start to the 2006 season.
Though the win does not go toward the team's Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) record, he said he was happy to get it out of the way.
"Wentworth always has very strong one and two-seed players, and the guy I played beat me last year," Huddleston said, adding that he thinks Wentworth's top player was the only one to defeat him last season in a singles match.
When the pressure shifted to the number two doubles, newcomer Czupryna, a junior TV/video major, said he was working hard to keep his head and body in the game.
Playing in his first match with the team, Czupryna said he was nervous about the quality of his strokes and maintaining his mentality.
"With such a tight 5-4 squeeze, it was definitely good to play big," he said.
Warner said he was especially pleased with Czupryna's individual win, which captured a crucial point.
"T.J. [Czupryna] came through today," Warner said. "Every point is the same, whether it's the number-six guy or the number-one guy."
While the match seemed close, the end result was what ultimately mattered to the team.
It "would be nice to start out on a positive note for the season with a win," Warber said just before the match.
And thats just what they did.