PHILADELPHIA – The Temple Owls men’s and women’s tennis teams began their seasons at a perfect 2-0 during their fall-openers on Saturday. The first morning contest of the double-header at TU Pavilion was played against in-city rival, La Salle, where each Owl team played a perfect 7-0 match to begin the day. The only two freshman on the men’s squad, Uladzimir Dorash and Artem Kapshuk, impressed by dominating their debut doubles set as Owls, 8-2.
“Both of them are very strong players. They’re going to be big contributors for us this year and my expectations for them are to be in the lineup for both singles and doubles,” said head coach Steve Mauro. “They’re doing all the right things, so hopefully, everyone can keep working hard and we can have a real successful season.”
Owls senior, Ian Glessing, breezed through his singles sets, 6-0 each, shutting out La Salle’s, Brian Giuduci. Vineet Naran, a junior out of Colonia, New Jersey, also blanked his singles opponent with a pair of 6-0 sets.
On the women’s side, Temple recorded a total of 10 blanks against La Salle. Mariana Bedon and Dina Karina tallied an 8-0 doubles set for the Owls while their teammates, Minami Okajima and Anais Nussaume, also won their doubles contest, 8-0. The rest of the shutouts came in singles play by the same players. Bedon, Karina, Okajima and Nussaume won their singles matches with a pair of 6-0 sets each.
After sweeping the Explorers 7-0, the Owls looked to carry that momentum into the second half of their double-header, this time against the Rider University Broncos. Doubles play opened up a little shaky for the men’s team. The Owls’ veteran tandem of Vineet Naran and Santiago Canete quickly fell behind, 0-2, in their set against Rider. Naran and Canete had to climb an uphill battle the rest of the way, but showed their Temple-toughness and eventually pulled off a gritty 8-6 comeback victory.
The singles lineup that faced the Broncos featured seniors Nicoulas Paulus, Hicham Belkssir, Maros Januvka and sophomore Stephen Ong. Each of the upperclassmen won their respective sets, helping complete the 7-0 sweep for the day on the men’s side.
“Hopefully the older players can help mentor the younger players but the seniors are all motivated this year,” Coach Mauro said when reflecting upon his older players. “They all want to be ranked top 75 in the country. It’s a good group.”
In women’s play, the lady’s showed no signs of fatigue as they cruised by the Broncos, 7-0. The two Owl pairs of Bedon and Karina, and Okajima and Nussaume, once again went 8-0 in each of their doubles sets. In singles play, sophomores Alina Abdurakhimova and Yana Khon, displayed dominance. Adburakhimova played a pair of 6-1 sets to win her match while Khon split her match, 6-1 for the first set and 6-0 for the second.
“Last year, the women’s team had the most wins in Temple history. We’re looking to come close to that again this year,” Mauro said.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all great news for Temple tennis. Sophomore star on the women’s squad, Monet Stuckey-Willis, has been experiencing spinal issues in the months leading up to this season.
“One of our top players (Stuckey-Willis) is out right now. Her spine is acting up so we’re going to give her the full season off and hopefully she can recover well.” Mauro included that the Owls may try to strengthen their roster with new personnel due to the injury. “We might be adding another player in January to help us get even stronger.”
The Owls have the rest of the weekend off and will resume practice on Monday before the men’s team travels out to the Joe Hunt Invitational hosted by Navy in Annapolis from September 25th to the 26th. The women’s next contest will be in New Jersey from September 25th to the 27th as part of the Princeton Invitational.