Nick McAdam, Assistant Sports Editor
The Utica College men’s tennis team recently came off of a 9-0 victory over SUNY Delhi at home. That improves the team’s record to 3-6, which is already more wins than their past two years combined.
The Pioneers are relatively small in roster size compared to other Utica sports teams — the makeup is 12 players. Among each member, head coach John Nigro has put together a squad of nine players who have a season or more left to play.
Nigro said he hopes to set future tennis teams up for success. In fact, veteran Pioneers are already seeing massive improvements from years prior.
Garrett Bortiatynski wants the team to build around a younger core while aiming for the Empire 8 Tournament in the years ahead.
“I can see good things coming from this team in the next few years,” Bortiatynski said. “Hopefully, we can see the team make the conference tournament and get a positive season record.”
At the moment, Bortiatynski is posting a record of 2-3 in matches for the Pioneers, which is the third highest on the team this season. He regularly competes alongside Matt Zbytniewski and Anthony Coppola, where he posts a record of 1-1 in conference play.
Bortaitynski remembers joining the team in his sophomore year at Utica College after contacting Nigro about how to get involved.
“I got recruited my sophomore year in college when I went to a tennis match with some of my friends,” Bortiatynski said. “I had noticed that there wasn’t a huge number of players out there and it looked like a fun sport, so I got in contact with Coach Nigro to figure out how I could join the team.”
Since his sophomore year, there have been major changes in terms of winning percentage for the Pioneers. Take last season, where the Pioneers finished with two overall wins both in an individual and double play. The only wins came from Paul Litvak and the duo of Joshua Palmer and Alfonzo Whitehurst.
This season, Bortaitynski noticed that the team is more spread out. He believes the massive improvement of 13 wins in singles and six doubles wins is due to team chemistry and work ethic off the court.
“This team has good work ethic on and off the court,” he said. “The coaching staff really stresses the importance of our grades and wholeheartedly backs the student aspect coming before athlete.”
In a season where three athletes, including Bortiatynski, are potentially going to graduate, Nigro and the rest of the tennis team are hoping for more young talent to supplement them in the future.
For Bortiatynski, he still has fond memories of play and dedicates his work off the court to his success in matches.
“With this being my final season, I’m really inspired to do the best I can for the team,” Bortiatynski said. “I’ve put in a lot of work over the years and it’s nice to see it pay off with a couple of wins so far.”
The Pioneers wrap up the season on April 27. There are currently four matches remaining, three of which come within the Empire 8 conference.
Next up, Utica takes on Empire 8 rival Alfred University.