University of Richmond’s men's and women's varsity tennis programs are united in feelings of optimism and confidence entering the fall season, coaches and players say.

The ultimate goal, a high rank in the conference tournament and an eventual victory, will have to wait until spring, but both teams are preparing now to come out strong in preseason play, they said. 

The men’s team is coming off a 14–11 season during which it reached the semifinals in the year-end tournament before being defeated by perennial antagonist George Washington.

The good news for this team is the return of six seniors, including last year’s No. 1 singles player Jacob Dunbar. Joining the seniors are several rising upperclassmen, who sixth-year coach Ben Johnson says have a chance to grow into a bigger role with the squad.

Among these players are Alex Felisa, who moved from the middle of the lineup to No. 2 singles last year, and James Aronson, who Johnson says could be an impact player for the Spiders.

Aronson is confident in his team’s ability to compete at a high level this season. “From top to bottom, everyone can compete and we look to achieve great things this year,” he said. 

Johnson said that this was the strongest team he has had entering the season since he began coaching here.

Johnson knows that the pressure is on to succeed with this group considering how close they came last spring, he said. “Having so many seniors and being so close, we are always adapting how to train to make the next step.”

The women’s team enters the year with similarly high expectations.

After a 13–10 2015 season, the team was awarded a No. 5 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament and lost in the quarterfinals to St. Louis.

Coach Mark Wesselink, who has led the Richmond women’s tennis program for 25 years, said he was especially excited to get two veteran seniors, Britney Boyes and Kelsey Williams, back from injury. Their leadership will be key for the team to succeed this year, he said.

Other reasons for excitement are four new recruits, all of whom can play doubles, which is an area the team struggled in last season.

One player to watch out for, Wesselink said, is Gaby Rosales, who he said, “has always been quick around the court but is now starting to go for the big shot.” Wesselink is confident that the team will be in the hunt for the Atlantic 10 title this year, he said.

Contact reporter Mike Cronin at michael.cronin1@richmond.edu

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