TOWSON, Md. — Goucher's men's tennis program continued its steady progress during head coach Brendan Kincaid's second season at the helm last year. The Gophers registered eight victories, the most since 2004-05, and had their most competitive season in Landmark play since joining the conference seven years ago.
Now, backed by a strong finish last spring and a talented collection of newcomers to the program, Goucher looks to take another step forward this season, beginning with tomorrow's 3:30 p.m. road matchup at Penn St. Harrisburg.
"We made some really good strides last year," Kincaid said. "I thought we were playing our best tennis at our end of the year, which is always what you want from a coaching standpoint. Part of that success came from starting to win the close matches that we were losing earlier on. It's going to be important this fall for our veterans to show the new players what it took to make that transition."
There are likely to be several changes to Kincaid's lineup in 2014-15. The Gophers will need to replace outgoing senior captain David Spivey, a two-time All-Landmark performer who played No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles.
Several of Goucher's five newcomers to the program, however, are expected to contribute from the onset, and their presence has benefitted the team from top to bottom.
"In years past, having only seven or eight players on our roster, the level of competition was not as great," Kincaid said. "But this year, we have a lot of competition in every spot. This is the best recruiting class that I've brought in since I've been here. And it's interesting and exciting to see how the freshmen have come in and pushed the veteran guys to raise their game to another level as well."
Seth Hoesman (Ellicott City, Md./Howard), a two-time First-Team All-Landmark standout, leads the group of veterans for the Gophers. Hoesman played at No. 1 singles in every match last year, compiling a 13-7 dual record overall with victories in four of his seven conference matchups. He also went 12-7 teaming with Spivey at No. 1 doubles.
Midori Fujitani (Tokyo, Japan/International School Bangkok), who debuted at No. 3 singles and totaled the most single-season wins (15) for a Goucher player in nine years, will also be back and should continue to provide solid depth in the middle of the singles and doubles lineup.
With a solid mix of veterans and newcomers, Kincaid is excited about the potential in this year's squad. With so many fresh faces, though, the fall season will be a key opportunity for the team to gain match experience and determine what role each player is best suited for.
"With half of my team being brand new, I just have to see them more on a daily basis," Kincaid said. "After a few weeks of practice, I'm starting to get a better idea of how they're going to fit into the lineup, but it will all depend on the results."
Both the fall season and the initial spring matches all ultimately build up towards conference play. Goucher earned two Landmark victories last spring for the first time in five seasons, and the Gophers picked up at least three match wins in three of their conference defeats. Kincaid believes this year's roster has the ability to reach new heights if it puts in the proper preparation.
"I wouldn't trade our team for anyone else's in our conference," Kincaid said. "I think we're going to take a big step forward, but we can't really say anything until we prove it on the court.
"The last three years we've won a total of 15 matches," he concluded. "We could win more matches this year than we've won the last three. That's a possibility. But it's not going to happen unless we focus on how we're going to get there. Dedicating and fully committing ourselves to the process is what will ultimately get us to where we want to go."