The Pitt-Bradford men's tennis team opens the 2013 season Saturday in Olean, N.Y., against Alfred at 10 a.m.
Saturday will serve as an early barometer for head coach Susan Schenfield. The Panthers won't play again until March 20. She hopes Alfred serves as a chance for the men to display a patient approach, a goal they have set for the year.
Pitt-Bradford returns five players from last year's squad, including their top three singles players. Ian Vaughan, Allan Miller, Travis Scida, Dylan Nuzzo and David Kopp aim to fill five of the six rotations in singles.
Vaughan, a sophomore, spent the majority of last year competing in the top spot and hopes to show improvement after playing against more experienced competition for a season. Miller, a senior, is a fierce competitor with a big forehand and will compete with Vaughan for one of the top spots.
Scida, an athletic and powerful junior, will return to singles, and Nuzzo, a sophomore, will look to jump up in the order after spending much of last year as the No. 5 player. The Bradford native tied for the team lead in wins with five and spent the offseason improving his serve. Kopp, a junior, is quick on his feet and adept at playing at the net. He tied Nuzzo with five wins last year.
The remaining singles spot will be determined by who emerges from the group of Ryan Meyer, Thai Dao and Josh Ellson. Meyer and Ellson both rejoin the team after missing last year.
Pitt-Bradford's biggest advantage is in doubles play, where it has the most experience.
"In doubles, we have the talent and desire," said Schenfield. "We have players whose skills balance each other and who know from a leadership standpoint their role in the duo."
Schenfield has employed consistency drills in the team's preseason workouts in hopes of building a more patient, winning brand of tennis.
It will be needed as the Panthers face numerous challenges throughout their schedule.
"We would love to win every match, but the margin is so tight and many things have to go our way," said Schenfield. "It won't be easy, but on the courts where the rallies can last so long, we will show we have the patience to ride out the toughest opponents and that we'll be standing on top a few more times this year."