Injured men#039;s tennis team wrecks Norwich Cadets

by Beacon Staff • April 15, 2009

It was spirited and convivial. The players were fast, loud, and physically falling apart, battling injuries created prior to the day's game.

On April 11, members of Emerson's tennis team and those of their opponents, the military school from Vermont-Norwich University-began to ready for what would be a brutal bout at the tennis dome in Winchester, Mass.

Despite a weakened team on both sides, the Lions crushed Norwich 9-0, putting them 5-3 overall and 3-0 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.

On the perch separating the courts from the viewing area, Norwich coach Ernie True was bandaging Norwich freshman Graham Oliveira. Teammate and freshman Collin Hyte laughed to his coach, "Our team's slowly deteriorating."

Emerson freshman film major Mark Jackman injured his wrist at a Suffolk match earlier this year and has since been wearing a brace. Jackman said, "I am right-handed and normally play with two hands on my backhand, but since I hurt my wrist, I've just been using one hand. Since I need both hands to hit topspin, I can only hit slice with my one handed backhand. It makes it a little more difficult to play but the injury doesn't affect any other part of my game."

Freshman Ken Nikravesh didn't play Saturday because of pain in his shoulders, Coach Mason Astley said. Astley hopes Nikravesh will be back for playoffs.

Sophomore Garrett Mercer has been out all season due to an Ultimate Frisbee incident.

"I tore my ACL, had surgery in December. So I can't participate in athletic activity until July," the BFA film major said. This year, Mercer has been serving as the team's racket-stringer and manager.

At the meet, doubles were eight-game pro-sets, and they were first.

On court one for Emerson were senior Brant Buckley and sophomore Allessandro Bellino; both Buckley and Bellino attend the Berklee School of Music.

Later in an e-mail, Astley said Buckley had knees that were a little sore.

He also said, "[Bellino] has been battling elbow tendonitis which has hampered him in past matches. He really hasn't been able to practice, but he got through a really tough opponent on Saturday."

After each point, the two met mid-court for a hand slap or pound or whisper of strategy.

On the other side of the net, it was a string of peculiarities. In the first game, a pointed and powerful serve was followed by a return. The Norwich player yelled, "Watch it!" But his shot back fell short at the net, and resulted in him bending down in front of the mesh divide, placing his hands on his knees and screaming, "Come on, Peter." It continued the entire match. Later, a volley hit by Buckley caused his opponent to slice the cement floor with his racquet like he was hitting a slap shot one-timer. The match ended 8-2.

During a brief lull before his next match, Bellino came into the viewing area with a bag of ice on his forearm. "It just hurts, you know. I have been resting though ... I haven't played in the last three games," he said.

On court two, the action wasn't as loud, but certainly atypical. As a shot was going out, Norwich players jumped over the tennis ball, so not to interfere with its out status. Then, the player raised his finger and shouted, "That was out." The game ended a few minutes later, 8-4 for Emerson.

Emerson junior Varun Kapur said court two was still a bad match, regardless of the win.

"It was my worst tennis I ever played," he said. "That's the thing about tennis. It's all psychological. I don't know. I wasn't really focused on the courts. I didn't really sleep well, and overall I was just tired."

He said they won only because of their experience on the court compared to Norwich.

"I've been playing since I was four," the film major said.

Senior David Fein also seemed upset that he didn't come back with a shut-out, as he stepped into the viewing area after winning 6-0, 64 and "I played a really confident first set. I ripped balls. The second set, I got a little tight, had a little mental lapse. [I was upset] because of the second set. I just played silly," said the film major.

Sophomore film production major Morgan Crossley did bagel it, however-bringing home a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

He said, "I played really well. I've had some really good days and some really bad days. Today was a good one."

Crossley said Norwich was one of the better teams they would be playing in the conference.

He said this season was different than most. "The season's going exceptionally well. Our new coach [Mason Astley] has done a great job. I was here last year, and this year has just been a lot better. We're practicing a lot more. We have more court time. We practice two to three times a week now."

Sophomore marketing major Mike Nourie said the team's got a good shot at seeding number one in the GNAC if they can avoid adding injury to injury.

Astley said they would focus on improving as much as possible over the next two weeks.

"Johnson and Wales will be a test this weekend. They are our last conference match and a chance for us to earn the number one seed. We expect to be almost full-strength for that match . If we play our best in the playoffs, I think we'll show well."