Baruch Tennis 2012-2013

There is much excitement surrounding this year’s Baruch tennis squad, as they are coming off an unbelievably successful year. The expectations are higher than ever as the teams looking to improve upon a season in which they were CUNYAC (City University of New York Athletic Conference) Tournament champions, CUNYAC regular season champions, and they even made an NCAA Division III Tournament Appearance. Although they lost in the 2nd round to Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts school in Maine, their first round match was certainly memorable as they swept past UMass Dartmouth 5-0, marking their second ever win in the Tournament.

The team features some star power along with their returning top two players. Junior Danil Ovechkin returns for his second year with the team to play first singles once again – a spot he shined in last year. Ovechkin transferred prior to last season from Division I Wagner College, where he was the team’s MVP, and is now looking to further make his mark.

Guy Coren, the team’s second singles player, is also a force to be reckoned with. The Israeli-born star is coming off tremendous year of his own as he was the recipient of the 2012 CUNYAC Player of Year Award. Rounding out the remaining starting spots are Artem Gobachevskly at third singles, David Garzon at fourth singles, Philip Bleustein at fifth singles, and Samuel Hajibai at sixth singles.

The team is in the process of rounding into form and preparing for the upcoming regular season. They have already had a pre-season encounter with Drew College, in which they were edged out in a thriller 4-5; however, none of the blame for this early season test can be put on legendary coach Florin Guiglescu, who serves as the coach of the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Baruch.

Guiglescu has been name as a three-time CUNYAC Men’s Coach of the Year, including in 2012, and he led his squad to CUNY’s first ever NCAA Tournament birth when the Baruch Bearcats made the tourney in 2007. He took the reigns as coach in 1978 until 1987; following a nine year hiatus, he returned in 1996 to coach both the men’s and the women’s teams and he has done a superb job ever since. Guiglescu’s track record is impressive, to the say the least. As a player he was ranked in the top 30 in the United States, and as a coach he has aided icons such as Silvia Hanika, Tim Mayotte, and even 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah.

One player who has really stood out thus far has been freshman Sam Hajibai. He is the team’s youngest player and is only one of two underclassmen. Hajibai has already made an impact on the squad, as he was victorious in both his sixth singles match and third doubles match (along with Philip Bleustein) in their match against Drew. Sam was a four-year starter on the Great Neck North High School tennis team on Long Island, and it looks like he has a bright future ahead of him. I recently had the chance to sit down with Mr. Hajibai, asking him a few questions about the team:


Q: What are your expectations for your freshman year?
A: I am the only freshman on the team and I am the only player who did not transfer to Baruch from a Division I team. I expect to win a lot of matches because I am currently seeded at the lowest spot on the lineup and the matches will not be as tough for me. I won the first singles and doubles match that we played against Drew College, which is considered one of the better teams we will play.

Q: What is a normal practice session like?
A: Before practices began, I thought they would be a lot like high school where the team would meet at once to train and try different doubles partners. The practices have turned out to be less intense than I thought they would be. Every player on the team knows how to play extremely well so the coach does not expect hardcore drilling from us. There is one court across from the big gym where a net is set up and we just play a few sessions against some of our teammates.

Q: Why did you choose to play tennis here at Baruch?
A: At first I thought playing tennis in college was not worth my time because it would interfere with my academics. However, I heard that athletes are given special privileges, such as early registration dates. This allowed me to pick the best possible times for my Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 classes. I also really enjoyed playing sports in high school. A sports team is like a family. You grow close to each and every teammate on the team in unique ways. A few of my teammates gave me very good advice for classes at Baruch and I am very thankful.

Q: What are some of your most memorable past achievements?
A: I started playing tennis when I was four years old and I grew up training at different clubs. I also played with my friends all the time on my own tennis court. I played varsity tennis throughout my four years of high school and I was ranked number 2 in all of Long Island, as well as being ranked in the top 100 on the East Coast of the United States.

Q: How have you liked your time on the team so far?
A: This is definitely the smallest team I have ever been a part of. There are only eight people on the team and six people that play. Since the team is much smaller than anything I have ever been on, I feel that each player contributes much more in his own way. My teammates are all bigger, taller, stronger, and more experienced than I am so I’m going to learn from watching them. I am no longer the best on the team like I was in high school. I feel more pressure to do well now that every match counts more for the team’s overall performance. I am extremely happy to be a part of Baruch’s tennis team and I hope I can prove myself to the coach and my fellow teammates!

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