Lions gear up for playoffs

by Beacon Staff • April 25, 2007

But the tennis war between Emerson College and Suffolk University will come to an end today after the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Semi-Finals at 7 p.m.

Calls were missed.,The damage is already done, the bad blood already spilled. The first battle is over.

But the tennis war between Emerson College and Suffolk University will come to an end today after the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Semi-Finals at 7 p.m.

Calls were missed. Honor came into question. And the Rams defeated the Lions 6-3 in the rivals' first match-up of the year on April 14.

Emerson Head Coach Keith Warner called foul in the first match against Suffolk.

"They're not very good sportsmen," Warner said. "They made bad calls. We don't mind losing, but don't cheat us."

Tennis in the GNAC is based on the honor system, with competing players making their own calls.

Isaac Stahl, assistant coach at Suffolk University, agreed some calls were not correct but he said it's part of the game.

"I think those are very isolated incidents," Stahl said. "I think some players made bad calls and that happens. There's some level of karma in tennis. If the player makes a bad call, it will result in the final score."

Stahl said the calls for the games in question did not decide the outcome of the match.

Warner disagrees.

"You try to be as honorable as possible," he said. "People make bad calls. But Suffolk always makes bad calls because they know the only way they can beat us is by cheating."

Stahl said he spoke with the Rams players responsible for the questionable calls and said there is no honor in cheating.

"You can't pump your fist and win if you made a bad call," Stahl said. "I'm absolutely sure it will not happen again."

The GNAC conference has assured it will not. Tonight's playoff match will be officiated by a United States Tennis Association (USTA) official.

Emerson senior Co-Captain Randy Sollenberger is glad an impartial referee will be making the calls.

"Tennis shouldn't come down to bad line calls," Sollenberger said. "Tennis should be a very objective game."

Stahl is also in favor of having referees at the match.

"I would love officials watching every match," Stahl said. "I want our win to be legitimate, because we are legitimately a great team."

Warner plans on proposing that the GNAC change its rules when it comes to officiating at matches during the regular season.

"In some conferences, they do have referees for every match," Warner said. "In our conference, we only have referees at the season's end. That's something I'm going to address at a later date."

Lost in the war of words between Emerson and Suffolk is the semi-finals match.

The third-seeded Lions were 5-3 overall with a 3-2 record in the GNAC this season. The Lions have the GNAC Player of the Year in Aman Kapur, who went undefeated with a 7-0 record in singles play this season.

"He's a really great player, and he's done a lot of damage against us," Stahl said. "But I think he may be surprised. I'm excited to bring some competition for him."

Suffolk (8-2 overall, 4-1 in GNAC) comes into the semi-finals as the number-two seed and has two undefeated players in conference play.

Suffolk's Pedro Soares' record in the GNAC for singles matches was 4-0. He was also undefeated in doubles play with a 5-0 record.

"He's completely focused when he gets on the court," Stahl said of the management major from Brazil. "He's got a 3.9 GPA. He's a junior and he's going to be our MVP."

Fellow Rams junior Chris Delisi was 5-0 in both conference singles and doubles play.

"We have the best chemistry I've ever seen on a Suffolk team," Stahl said of the 2007 Rams. "These guys are a tight-knit group who fight for each other."

When the semi-finals start, both coaches hope cooler heads will prevail.

"It's a heated rivalry and emotions can flair up," Stahl said. "As heated as the rivalry is, there is a lot of respect between the two teams."

Warner attributes his team's loss at the hands of Suffolk to players being frustrated and playing angry tennis. Warner hopes the repercussions from the regular season match don't get carried over into the playoffs.

"We can't get intimidated," Warner said. "We know they're going to come in with bad behavior. The only guy I know who played great tennis mad is John McEnroe."

Sollenberger is confident in the Lions' championship chances despite their loss to the Rams and Western New England College (WNEC) in the regular season.

"We can beat these teams," Sollenberger said. "We played some guys who were unbeatable. That's definitely not the case with Suffolk."

Warner believes the team losing three consecutive matches in the middle of the season was actually a blessing in disguise, since the Lions have the swagger of being the reigning champions of the GNAC from 2004-2006.

"We started getting complacent with the winning," Warner said. "I think those two losses at the end of the day helped us and got our hunger back."

Warner said he is confident with his team's play heading into the playoffs.

"The team has that winning attitude. That pep in their step," Warner said. "We're peaking at the right time."

Stahl said he believes Suffolk has a deep enough team to move past the Lions in the semi-finals.

"They're the team from across the commons," Stahl said. "We definitely want to be the 'King of the Commons.'"