April 12, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The annual Star Match between the Army and Navy men's tennis programs will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. in Annapolis. The match is currently slated to be contested outdoors on the USNA Tennis Courts but will be moved to the nearby Tose Family Tennis Center should weather conditions force a move indoors.
Navy has compiled an overall record of 15-7 this year and ran its Patriot League mark to 4-0 with victories over Lafayette and Lehigh on March 31 and April 1, respectively. The Midshipmen recorded their wins over Leopards and the Mountain Hawks by the identical score of 7-0.
Meanwhile, the Black Knights enter a Thursday match at home against Bucknell with an overall record of 12-9 this season. This includes a mark of 3-0 in Patriot League matches.
"We are getting ready for a real battle with Army," said Navy head coach John Officer. "They have been playing well of late. We will need to stay in the moment and stay relaxed physically. A lot of Army-Navy matches come down to who controls their emotions better."
The two programs first met in 1923 and only poor weather washing out the 1945 match has interrupted annual meetings between the teams since 1938. Navy holds a 56-32 advantage in the overall series, which includes a 27-12 edge in matches played in Annapolis.
Saturday's match is expected to be another in a long string of close contests played between the two teams. The final score in six of the last seven and 11 of the last 18 regular season matches in the series has been 4-3.
Doubles has proven to be a key indicator in how the overall match will eventually go. The team earning the doubles point has gone on to win 22 of the last 24 Army-Navy matches.
Navy has posted an 8-2 record against Army over the previous six seasons, a span that includes four victories (2007-10) by the Mids over the Black Knights in the championship match of the Patriot League Tournament. Helping Navy to this recent success has been its ability to win close sets in singles. The Mids have compiled a 11-7 record in three-set singles matches over the last 10 meetings with the Black Knights, as well as an 11-6 mark in singles sets during this span that have been extended into a tiebreaker.
Army's two wins in this recent 10-match stretch have come in regular season meetings between the teams in 2010 and 2011, both of which saw the Black Knights defeat the Mids by the identical score of 4-3. The lone two Navy players on the 2012 team who faced Army in singles last year are Marcus Rebersak
(Sr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Nicholas Gutsche
(Jr., Sarasota, Fla.). Rebersak lost in straight sets at No. 2 singles and Gutsche dropped a three-set match at No. 5 singles.
While the Navy lineup will be vastly different Saturday than it was a year ago, Army returns the majority of its six-player lineup that faced the Mids last season in West Point. Back for the Black Knights are Asika Isoh, who lost in three sets at No. 1 singles last year, Donald Van Velzer, who fell in straight sets at No. 3 singles, Alex Holland, who edged Gutsche, 6-4, in the third set of their No. 5 singles match, and Henry Jang-Milsten, who lost in straight sets at No. 6 singles.
In addition to the traditional importance placed onto any Army-Navy match, Saturday's match also could very well determine which team receives the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. The No. 1 seed in the seven-team field receives a quarterfinal round bye, which means it has the advantage of only having to win matches on back-to-back days to claim the league crown as opposed to the challenge of needing to win three matches in as many days that the remainder of the teams face. The top-seeded team has gone on to win the league crown seven times in the 10 previous years in which this format has been in place for the league tournament.
This year's Patriot League Tournament will be held April 27-29 at Navy.