TOWSON, Md. – In his first season as head coach, Brendan Kincaid's men's tennis squad achieved its highest win total in the past five years. With a final record of 5-14, however, and coming off a 2-20 season the year before, the second-year coach believes that there is still plenty of room for continued growth during the 2013-14 campaign.
"Considering where we were coming from, it was one of those things where we didn't have any other place to go but up," Kincaid said. "I think we did a good job of changing the culture last year. It was great that we made improvements, but five wins and one conference win is still not acceptable for where we're trying to go as a program."
The performance of Seth Hoesman (Ellicott City, Md./Howard) and David Spivey (Cockeysville, Md./The Park School) at the top of the lineup should provide plenty of optimism that brighter days are ahead for the Gophers.
Hoesman earned Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year and first-team all-conference accolades in his debut season after finishing with an 11-8 record (including three conference wins) from the No. 1 singles position. Spivey grabbed three conference wins from the No. 2 singles spot as well, which contributed to a 9-10 overall record and second-team all-conference recognition. The pair was also recognized as first-team all-conference in doubles after tallying a 6-5 record from the top spot.
Hoesman returns in 2013-14 for his sophomore season, while Spivey will be the team's captain for a second-consecutive year during his senior season.
"One thing I really challenged them with over the summer was to try to not only be the best players on our team, but to try to be the best players in the conference as well," Kincaid said. "Obviously it's great to have both of them returning. I think we've also brought in some good new players who can build on what Seth and Spivey have created here."
Among those newcomers are freshmen Midori Fujitani (Tokyo, Japan/International School Bangkok) and Chad Resnik (Miami, Fla./Pinecrest School), who started at three and four singles, respectively, in Goucher's first match at York last week. The duo also played No. 2 doubles, and Kincaid hopes that they will play a key role in improving the Gophers' depth throughout the lineup.
"Whenever you have freshmen in the lineup, you're always going to have ups and downs," Kincaid said. "In the last couple of weeks, though, we've seen some good improvement and growth. I'm expecting a lot out of those guys."
John Bescoby (San Marino, Calif./Maranatha), Pat Murnin (Salt Lake City, Utah/East) and Cody Nelson (Duanesburg, N.Y./Schalmont), who all saw extensive action last season, return for the Gophers. They will be joined by sophomore William Felinski (Philadelphia, Pa./Science Leadership Academy) to make up the rest of Goucher's lineup.
"These guys all did a great job of getting better in the offseason," Kincaid said. "Somebody may be playing five or six when last year they were at three or four, but I think this is more of a validation of the strides we've made in recruiting rather than a knock on the effort our returners have put in."
The Gophers continue fall play at the ITA southeast regional this weekend before closing out the early portion of their schedule with home matches against McDaniel and Penn St.-Harrisburg. Kincaid believes that these early matches provide an opportunity for team growth, with the expectation that the improvement can be used as a springboard into conference play.
"It's a real benefit to get in a few matches in the fall," he said. "It gives us some good experience, and hopefully allows us to pick up a couple of wins and give us some confidence heading into the spring.
"When it comes down to it, we have a tough out-of-conference schedule, but then I think we have an opportunity to do some really good things in our conference this year."