Riding a wave of momentum, the Binghamton University men’s tennis team is set to take the courts Saturday in Flushing, N.Y. with its sights set on a fifth consecutive America East Championship title.
The Bearcats (13-11) have dominated the conference over the past decade, winning seven of the last nine titles. They’ll be favorites again this year, after earning the No. 1 seed.
Binghamton couldn’t have drawn up the end to its regular season any better if it tried. The team has won its last six games, including three consecutive shutouts to conclude the season. Head coach Adam Cohen said he expects that level of play to continue come Saturday.
“We are going to compete,” Cohen said. “We’re on the road so I expect the guys to compete and I expect that our guys play smart and play the percentages to get the job done.”
The Bearcats’ reputation over the past few years has set the bar high for this year’s squad, but Cohen is confident that his team’s hot streak heading into the tournament will translate into positive results.
“I think it helps,” Cohen said about the team’s recent play. “We’ve been playing better doubles of late. Especially when you get into postseason play, the doubles point is big. It’s just nice going into singles being up 1-0. So hopefully we can continue to play strong in doubles and take that momentum into singles. You only need three wins instead of four if you can get doubles so it makes it easier.”
One of the highlights of this year’s team has been the play at the bottom of its lineup. While senior Alexandre Haggai and junior Ruben Devos have provided a reliable foundation for the team at No. 1 and No. 2, and freshmen starters Ismael Dinia and Robin Lesage have gotten the job done in the middle of the lineup, the consistency at the bottom of the lineup hasn’t been overlooked by Cohen.
“Last year we seemed to be more top-heavy,” he said. “This year we’ve gotten a lot of consistency from the bottom and I think that’s what you need when you’re chasing a championship.”
While the tournament had previously been held at Yale University, this year the tournament has been moved to Flushing Meadows.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Cohen said. “[Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal and all the other great professionals play there for the U.S. Open, so it definitely adds something to the experience.”
Still, with all the hype and expectations surrounding Binghamton, Cohen said the team hasn’t done anything special over the past week in preparation for the tournament.
“Monday we took a day off,” Cohen said. “We didn’t play because of the weather and Tuesday we played a little bit indoors at the Events Center. The last few days we’ve been able to get outside. We’re just doing the normal things, not anything out of the ordinary. Normal practices and just trying to keep the guys loose and ready to play this weekend.”
If Binghamton wins its first matchup, the team will play the winner of the matchup between second-seeded Stony Brook University and third-seeded University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The winner of that matchup will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
The Bearcats are set to kick off the tournament at 2 p.m. on Saturday against the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between No. 4 Boston University and No. 5 University of Hartford.