GOSHEN, Ind. – First serve for the Goshen College men's tennis team is just around the corner and 14th-year head coach Stan King is excited about the depth and talent that will grace the courts for the Maple Leafs.
King's 15-man roster includes players from three states and five countries giving him both diversity and multiple options. In addition to depth, the Maple Leafs boast a good deal of talent with a realistic opportunity to move back up the conference (Crossroads League) standings in 2012.
"This is the largest team I have ever had in terms of numbers and I think it is the most talented too," King said. "It would be nice to end up in the top four and I think it is possible, but we will have to see how we do against competition. The conference continues to get stronger and I understand that a number of other teams have also added a number of players."
Returning to lead the way is two-time all conference selection Csaba Laszlo (Sopron, Hungary). The senior has manned the top singles and doubles spots for the Maple Leafs in each of his two seasons, racking up an impressive 49 total victories, including a 16-0 mark in singles play in 2010.
The rest of the top of the lineup will likely have a new look for King's men. A trio of international standouts could fit in right after Laszlo, including his compatriot Balazs Pirot (Herceghalom, Hungary). Pirot has been in the top 10 in the Hungarian youth rankings and top 50 overall in his native country.
Fellow freshman, Jon Kaasa (Porsgrunn, Norway) has similar success in his homeland, ranking #7 in the under 18 category and will likely start as the No. 3 singles player for Goshen. Tentatively slated to play No. 4 is freshman Thiago Amaral (Piracicaba, Brazil) who similarly has been a top 10 U-18 player in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo.
Even with the exciting incoming crop of players, the biggest key to the Maple Leafs success may still rest in the experience and talent of a strong core of returners.
Junior Krishnan Ganesan (Chennai, India) has more than two dozen victories in two years for Goshen, playing as high as No. 2 in the singles lineup, while seniors Daniel Buschert (Goshen, Ind.), Ryan Wengerd (Goshen, Ind.) and Adam Weaver (Hesston, Kans.) will all fight for the final spots in both the singles and doubles lineups. Also look for sophomores Seth Krabill (Goshen, Ind.) and Vasantkumar Palanisamy (Chennai, India) to step in as well.
"They are not only great players, but they are a good group of guys as well," King added. "They seem to be liking to be around each other and I think they are bonding well. They have been intense in practice, are listening to my recommendations and their attitudes have been positive."
Doubles play may well be a determining factor in Goshen's success in 2012. Last season, the Leafs went 19-22 overall in doubles action and will need to improve on that number if they want to climb up the conference ladder.
"We have had really good sessions on doubles and how I want them to play," King explained. "They are trying to do the right thing and executing very well, especially in regards to communication and service return."
Another area of focus for King has been the mental aspects of the game, including dealing with pressure, emotions, flexibility, tension, and attitude. He hopes an additional focus in that area will take his talented roster to the next level on and off the court.
"I think this is an area that we can capitalize on with this group," he continued. "There are things that are not just about tennis, there are all sorts of things in life that they apply to."
The Maple Leafs open up the season with a pair of road conference contests, at Indiana Wesleyan and at Marian. They then host three of the next four with two-thirds of the Crossroads League schedule completed by the second week of September. Click here for the full schedule.