Fairfield’s tennis teams are making an impact in the MAAC

Fairfield’s tennis teams are making an impact in the MAAC

by John Torsiello

Brothers Mark Kremheller ’11 and Erik Kremheller ’13, members of the Fairfield University men’s tennis team, are alike in many ways, but not in others.

“I’m definitely more intense. I get angry and nervous during matches,” said Mark. “I can be semi-obnoxious at times and loud,” he added with a smile.

“I’m more laid back,” countered Erik, “and don’t let things get to me much.”

“Erik really helps calm me down during matches,” Mark continued. “He knows what to say to keep me on an even keel.”

While they may be a bit disparate in personality, the two Greenwich, Conn., natives share a common bond – Fairfield tennis. Both are fully committed to the program, which has become one of the best in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference under the sage guidance of Head Coach Ed Paige and his staff.

Last year, the Stags advanced to the finals of the MAAC Championship for the third straight year. The 2009 men’s team set a school record for most wins in a season with 18, and earned a regular season MAAC title. A big part of the team’s recent success is the result of bringing in quality players such as the Kremhellers.

“Erik is a key component of our team,” said Paige, as he sat in his office in the Thomas J. Walsh Athletic Center on a spring afternoon. “He’s a win machine for us and he just keeps getting better. He has things to learn, like how and when to hurt an opponent with a shot, but he’s getting that as well.”

Paige continued, “Mark has had limited playing time but he is our captain and it’s one of the wisest moves I have ever made. He has the respect of the other team members and he isn’t afraid to challenge them or point things out that need to be talked about. His real value this year is his leadership.”

Erik, an accounting major, was a second-team All-MAAC selection playing number five singles in 2009-10 and was All-MAAC first team at number one doubles. He posted a 26-9 overall record, including a 5-1 MAAC mark. This season, he continued his excellence, playing at number three singles for the Stags. He was undefeated during his career at Greenwich High School, helping the Cardinals to four straight state championships.

Mark was also highly recruited before ultimately choosing Fairfield. Specializing in doubles while in high school, he helped his team win three Connecticut state titles, posted a 46-1 career record, and won a state doubles championship his senior year. He also is an accounting major who plans on earning a master’s degree in 2012.

Mark was All-MAAC second team at number three doubles in 2009-10 and was a member of the MAAC All-Academic Team. He played sparingly but well during his first two seasons at Fairfield and was always there to lend vocal and tactical support to his teammates.

Mark, a member of the Dean’s List, says his decision to attend Fairfield was really quite easy.

“I was thinking of Fordham also but I liked the fact that Fairfield is close to home, the campus is beautiful and the business school is great and there is such support when you are looking for a job.” He already has a position waiting for him at the accounting firm Ernst & Young once school ends.

Other members of the Fairfield men’s team are Dennis Zlobinsky ’14 (Greenwich, N.Y.); R. J. Mirabile (Fort Washington, Penn.); Bjorn Merinder ’14 (Andover, Mass.); Reece Breault ’14 (Binningen, Switzerland); Mike Lessing ’12 (Islip, N.Y.); Joe Michalisin ’12 (Melville, N.Y.); Dan Sauter ’12 (Franklin Lakes, N.J.); and Rob Ferrante ’11 (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.).

Coach Paige joined the Stags program as head coach of both the men and women for the 2006-07 season after serving as an assistant coach for five years.

Prior to turning his attention full-time to tennis, he worked as a journalist, spending six years as editor at World Tennis Magazine. He was also editor of Tennis USA, the United States Tennis Association’s official monthly newspaper.

In addition to the men’s success in 2009-10, the women’s team won 19 matches, tying a program mark, and went 7-0 in the MAAC to capture the league’s regular season title. The women’s team also won their second consecutive MAAC Championship crown and earned their second-straight NCAA Tournament berth.

“We have enjoyed some nice success in recent years,” said Paige. “We’re getting good kids who can really play. We need to understand how to put points away instead of just rallying and hoping for a mistake, but that is coming along.”

The coach, who is assisted by Fairfield alumni and former Stags Marisa Voloshin ’09 and Ryan Berthod ’10, is also thrilled by what he sees taking place around him at Fairfield.

“Father [President, Jeffrey P.] von Arx has made a strong commitment to building a vibrant campus life and you are seeing that with the new dormitories that will be opening soon. The Jesuit approach – faith, academics, community service, and diversity – are so important to our students’ all-around development.”

Paige says Sharissa Ryan ’14, a freshman from Bedford Hills, N.Y., is just the type of young woman he wants to see more of at Fairfield.

“She is a phenomenal person on and off the court. She works so hard at her game and a lot of the things she does, she does on her own to get better.”

He added, “I recruited her and was at her house last October. She has wonderful parents and the first thing Sharissa asked about was academics. She wanted to go to Fairfield for all the right reasons.”

Ryan was a standout for the Fox Lane High School team in Bedford Hills, where she compiled a 73-7 career record, earned all-league honors six seasons and team MVP honors for five. In 2008, she became the first women’s tennis player from Fox Lane to earn a spot in the New York State Championships, advancing to the finals of the consolation round. She played in three International Tennis Federation tournaments.

During her freshman season at Fairfield, Ryan hit the ground running. In her first 15 singles matches, she was 4-1 at number one and 8-2 at number two. She split her first 20 doubles matches.

On her game, Paige commented: “She has an inside out forehand that she is consistent with, can go inside in when she has to, and can put away volleys when she attacks the net, which she isn’t afraid to do. She has a good serve and a strong defensive game. She’s learning fast.”

Other members of the women’s team are Monica Yajima ’14 (Greenwich, Conn.); Victoria Pirrello ’14 (Staten Island, N.Y.); Carolina Koladzyn ’14 (New York, N.Y.); Caroline Emhardt ’14 (Carmel, Ind.); Nikki Jackson ’13 (Hackensack, N.J.); Kristen Liu ’11 (Closter, N.J.); and Alyssa Ruiz ’11 (Glen Head, N.Y.).