BOSTON, Mass.—UMass Boston men's tennis is set to kick off their spring title defense Friday, when the Beacons travel to take on the MIT Engineers at 4 p.m.
The defending Little East Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions return three All-Conference players and four total players from their 14-4 title team. Last year's squad reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and set new program-records for wins in a season (14) and consecutive victories (12).
Reigning Little East Conference Coach of the Year Eric Berg will rely heavily on his top three returners, as seniors Charles Lai (Boston, Mass.), Sean Cullen (Medway, Mass.) and Eglis Bizhoti (Kucovë, Albania) are expected to slot into the top three spots this season.
The trio combined to go 28-15 last year in singles play with Lai and Bizhoti both being named to the Little East Conference First Team for singles action, while Lai and Cullen earned spots on the LEC First Team for doubles.
Lai comes into the season tied for fifth all-time in program history with 48 career victories and 25 career doubles wins and stands tied for eighth with his 23 career singles wins. Cullen will be suiting up with the Beacons for just his second season, but he finished last year with a 16-8 overall record and earned Great Northeast Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors at Suffolk University in 2011. Bizhoti will be looking to earn All-Conference honors for the fourth consecutive season, after being named to the LEC All-Conference Second Team for doubles at Salem State in 2011 and 2012.
Joining the Beacons' three returning All-Conference players, are seniors Lyle Analetto (Belmont, Mass.) and Brian Sou (Revere, Mass.). While Analetto didn't appear in many matches last season and Sou took a year off, both players played major roles on the 2012 team that finished 8-7.
After Friday's match, UMass Boston will have two weeks off, before traveling to Orlando, Florida for their spring trip. UMass Boston will host Eastern Nazarene College on Thursday March 27 in their home opener, and then two days later (March 29) they will open their Little East Conference slate at home against the University of Southern Maine.