The York University Lions tennis teams return to the courts this season with a new head coach, but with the same set of goals as they will look to challenge for a spot on the podium at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships in early October.
The tennis squads will be led by Robert Perri, who was named head coach of the tennis program in August. Perri is a former York University student who returns to Lions nation with a successful coaching resume and experience leading programs and coaching high-performance athletes. Perri says that he feels the key to the team’s success this year will be all about how they prepare for their matches.
“The key to the team’s success this year will be working hard in practice and in the gym,” said Perri. “As long as we take care of that side of the game, our players will know when they step on the court they can perform to the best of their abilities.”
The women’s team has been one of the most successful programs at York in recent years, winning an OUA medal every year since 2013. They have won one bronze medal, three silver medals, and one OUA title in the last five years, as well as two Canadian University Tennis Championship titles in 2015 and 2016. Last season the Lions won the OUA silver medal for the third year in a row after losing by a close 4-3 score in the final against the Western University Mustangs.
The Lions will be led by returning players Claudia Poluga, who earned an OUA all-star in 2016, and Sara Kuprica, who will be entering her third year with the team. Both Poluga and Kuprica played at the junior national level in the past and will be joined by veteran Julia Khalilova, who earned the first OUA all-star honour of her York career last season and Heather Hills who has been a member of the last three silver medal-winning squads.
York only has one women’s rookie on the roster this season, as Dina Hassan joins siblings Lobna and Randa Hassan on the team. Rounding out the Lions roster is Aryanne Hart-Dixon who returns for her second year with the team and senior Vanesa Ereqi.
The men’s team will be looking to get back on the OUA podium for the first time since 2012 and are coming off a promising 2017 season that saw them fall short of a medal. The Lions were defeated by the Western Mustangs in the OUA bronze medal match to finish in fourth place, but rebounded to win a silver medal at the inaugural Canadian University Winter Championships in March.
Perri has some impressive rookies joining the men’s team this year that he will count on to produce wins on the court. Rookie Tegbir Hara comes to York with a strong tennis pedigree that includes being ranked in the top-10 in Canada as an under-18 junior and experience playing on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tour. Hara will be joined by fellow rookie Andrew Razaev, who won an ITF doubles tournament last winter.
Veteran leadership on the team will be provided by returning third year players Nikola Janev and George Zoidl, and senior Dylan Shanmugadhasan. Sophomores Karan Negi and Sahil Sareen are also back for the second year with the Lions after solid rookie seasons that saw them both win singles matches in the OUA playoffs.
The Lions next home game will take place on Friday, Sept. 21 when they take on the University of Montreal Carabins at the Tait McKenzie tennis courts at 3pm. They also host the McMaster University Marauders on Saturday, Sept. 22 on 12pm.