2011 Washington and Lee Men's Tennis Season Preview

The 2011 Washington and Lee men's tennis team may not sport Greek letters across their chest, but with a combined 18 years of experience among the players expected to play positions 1-8, you could easily call them a fraternity.

"I think that these guys are closer than ever before," said Detwiler of his team's experience together.  "Six of these guys will be playing together for at least the third year and some of them are roommates on campus to boot.  We know each other really well and that camaraderie will help us to push each other in terms of our practices and matches."

Detwiler noted that his team has a focus in fitness and conditioning, with each of the top eight players all working together with a personal trainer.

"We have the experience necessary to be a Top 15 team in Division III and now we've turned our focus towards our fitness level," Detwiler remarked.  "If we are confident in our tennis and continue focus on our fitness, there's no reason we can't work our way into a Top 15 program."

Focus begins with excellent leadership and Detwiler believes he has that covered with senior captain Will Hall.  Last year's team MVP, Hall has transformed himself into one of the team's top players through hard work and dedication.

"He is one of the most improved players that I can ever remember from my career here at W&L," said the 11th-year mentor.  "He is a good student, is eager to learn and is a very hard worker.  He has the build (tall and lean) to be a great tennis player."

Hall played mostly at No. 3 singles and No. 4 doubles last spring, earning First Team All-ODAC honors in both singles and doubles.  He enters the spring campaign with a 29-13 career record in singles and a 22-21 career mark in doubles.

Hall is among a trio of players that Detwiler expects to fill the 2-4 singles positions.  Juniors Jeremy Becht and Mac Davis will also battle for one of the Top 4 singles positions. 

Sophomore Hayden White is expected to play the top singles position after earning All-America laurels during his rookie campaign.  White posted a 23-11 singles record and a 17-8 doubles record last year in being named the ITA Atlantic South Region Rookie of the Year.

"Hayden started out very strong last year and was nationally-ranked in singles at one point in the season," said Detwiler.  " He has a strong baseline game and is mentally tough – a fighter.  He needs to work on being more consistent day in and day out in match play, but as he matures he will continue to get better and better."

Becht has been a consistent factor for the Generals over his first two seasons, earning All-ODAC honors both years and garnering ODAC Rookie of the Year laurels in 2009.  Last year, he was a first team all-conference pick at No. 2 doubles (17-8 record) and a second team all-league selection at No. 3 singles (14-9 record).

"Jeremy is one of my smartest players in terms of strategy," noted Detwiler.  "He has a good baseline game and is excellent at producing passing shots.  He plays very well in doubles competition and has a lot of experience there."

Davis saw limited action during his first year with the team, but he emerged to play No. 2 singles (10-13) and No. 3 doubles (16-17) last season.  He earned First Team All-ODAC honors in doubles and garnered second team recognition in singles.

"Mac had a breakthrough season last year after struggling with injuries during his rookie year," said Detwiler. 

"He is physically one of the team's strongest players and he has a big serve which is rumored to be around 140 mph," Detwiler said with a playful chuckle while noting that the team would love the reference to his serve speed.  "He is also a really good doubles player and a high-energy guy," he added.

Juniors Jonathan Gaffney, Michael Freeman, Ben Fass and Brian Roberts are among the team's most experienced brotherhood and Detwiler believes that their experience and team-first attitude will lead to an excellent battle for the fifth and sixth singles positions.

Gaffney was an All-ODAC selection in singles as a first year, but played mostly doubles as a sophomore when he garnered Second Team All-ODAC honors at No. 1 doubles.  He enters the spring of his junior season with a 19-15 career singles record and a 22-21 career doubles record.

"Jonathan is the best ball-striker we have on the team and I'm looking for big things from him this year," Detwiler offered.  "He could climb the singles lineup and he is by far our best doubles player.  He has tremendous power and that can be a big asset for our team."

Freeman is a two-time All-ODAC honoree at No. 5 singles where he has compiled a 37-19 career record.

"Michael has an excellent all-court game and a lot of experience," said Detwiler.  "He is mentally tough to a point and won some crucial matches for us last year."

Fass led the team in singles wins (19-7) and earned First Team All-ODAC honors at No. 4 singles as a first-year, but injuries limited his effectiveness last season when he went just 4-7 in singles.  He's healthy again this spring and ready to battle for one of the Top 6 singles slots.

"Ben is the ultimate counter-puncher with excellent ground strokes," said Detwiler.  "His fitness and being injury-free will be a key to his success this year."

Roberts has logged a 17-3 singles record and a 6-1 doubles mark over his first two seasons and is ready to break into one of the top six singles positions this spring.

"Brian is an outstanding baseliner," noted Detwiler.  "He needs a little work on his serve, but I could easily see him breaking into the top six this year."

Sophomores Colin Elliott and Johnny Gragg are players that Detwiler highlighted for the top eight or even higher given their continued development.  Elliott went 3-2 in singles and 2-0 in doubles during his initial season with the Generals, while Gragg was 2-0 in both singles and doubles.

"Colin has worked really hard over the past two years and is an excellent athlete with a big forehand and a never say die attitude," said Detwiler.  He added of Gragg "Johnny can definitely challenge for the No. 6 spot and he can potentially earn one of the doubles spots.  He is known for his mixed doubles after placing third in the Texas state mixed doubles championship in high school."

As is usual in the early stages of the spring season, Detwiler is toying with the idea of several doubles combinations but he could see David and Hall playing at No. 1, Becht and Gaffney playing at No. 2 and White and Roberts playing at No. 3.  Combinations including Fass and Freeman and Elliott/Gragg could also fill one of the three doubles positions.

Though Detwiler believes his schedule isn't as challenging as he would like, he does admit that the team has what it takes to win another ODAC title and make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

"I feel like the team really improved last year and I'm looking forward to seeing what we are capable of this season," he said.  "The schedule gets tougher as the year goes along and hopefully we can defend our title and meet our goal of advancing to nationals in May."