All Eyes on Winning

Men’s Tennis

Although the St. John’s men’s tennis club finished 2007 with a 13-9 record and a fourth place finish in the Big East Championships, the team is preparing itself for a strong 2008 campaign. After close losses to fourth-ranked Notre Dame and South Florida in the Big East Tournament, the team is ready to make some noise during its 2008 campaign.

The Storm was 5-7 at the midpoint of last season, but finished strong with a 9-2 record in its next 11 games. Unfortunately, the momentum came to a halt once the conference tournament began.

Head Coach Eric Rebhuhn has some youthful exuberance to work with in the locker room, with half of the roster being underclassmen. Losing team captain Louis Desmarteaux, who captured All Big-East honors in 2007 for the third time in his career, will be a bit of a setback. His leadership and experience will have to be replaced by returning international superstar juniors Alex Svetlakov, Jordan Talbot, and Artem Vlasenko. With their polished skills, the trio look to lead the team by example and hold down the court against the toughest of future opponents.

Vlasenko told about his favorite moment from his debut Big East tennis season.

“My favorite moment would definitely be defeating the No. 116 player in the nation, Ryan Young from Clemson,” said Vlasenko. “Not only was my win huge, but the closeness of the final score of the match against the No. 20 team in the nation was incredible.”

He also offered some high hopes for the next couple of months.

“Hopefully I will have an opportunity to play in the All-American tournament. I would like have a great individual season, and hopefully we as a team can reach the goals we set for next season.”

After competing in the Columbia Invitational Tournament to warm things up, St. John’s will begin official season play against Yale in Woodbridge, Conn. on February 8. Big home matches against Stony Brook, UConn, Monmouth and Villanova highlight the second half of the schedule. Some marquee road battles include trips to South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Georgetown, and
Boston College.

The Columbia Invitational Tournament was the first action the team has seen since the Wilson/ITA Regional Tournament in late October. The team was ousted by Penn State in the quarterfinals.

Coach Rebhuhn enters his sixth season at St. John’s, three victories shy of 50 for his Red Storm tenure.

Women’s Tennis

The women’s tennis team looks to rebound after a disappointing 2007 season which featured a 7-11 record and an No. 11 seeding in the Big East Tournament.

The team finished the year with four straight conference losses, including two in the Big East Tournament to Syracuse and West Virginia. It started out 1-6, but climbed its way back to a high point of 7-7 before the weak finish. St. John’s captured its season’s first win against conference rival Syracuse following a shutout loss in Princeton.

Unlike the men’s team, the Lady Storm has a bit more experience with three returning seniors and a graduate student on the roster. Senior leaders Mariana Chachua, Ashley Harper, and Maria Zivcicova hope to power the rest of the ladies and blast some service aces past unsuspecting Big East victims.

The Storm had six wins in eight tries at home last year, but it was able to record only one win away from its home court in Queens. The team will have to dramatically improve on the 1-9 road/neutral site record and bring some more juice on road trips if it wishes to be a factor in the conference in 2008.

Head coach Allison Davidson also has a bit of youth to mold to go along with her own, with three members of the underclass ready to put a chokehold on the future of Big East tennis competition. The St. John’s alumna became one of the youngest coaches in Division-I tennis when she took over the Storm after graduating in 2005.

Sophomore Ira Aleksova commented to, sharing her thoughts on her first Big East Tournament last season.

“It was a great tournament,” said Aleksova. “I’m a very competitive person, and seeing the best teams in the conference play one another is awesome. It is very intense because everyone wants to win.”

St. John’s finished its fall schedule in October with the 2007 Brown Classic in Rhode Island before a long layoff. The women will resume action when its spring season kicks off on the road against Princeton on February 1.

The rest of the schedule features high-profile home matches against DePaul, Seton Hall, South Florida, NJIT, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Southern Mississippi. Premier road matches against Penn State, Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers, and Villanova round off the back end of the schedule.

The Big East Tournament will be hosted by South Florida in Tampa during mid-April as the Red Storm ∫work to move into the conference forefront.