| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

To open up the 2016 season, the St. John’s men’s tennis team headed down to Florida for a week-long road trip to take on four different schools from the state, winning three of the four contests to begin its campaign.

The Red Storm were in Florida for 12 days, first training at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, the site of the Miami Open, and then had four matches against top-level programs.

It first took on the Owls of Florida Atlantic in the season opener, and St. John’s notched a 4-2 victory. The Red Storm won two of the three doubles matches to earn the doubles point, and with wins at first and fourth singles, from Lucas Hejhal and Vaidik Munshaw, respectively, it needed just one victory to seal the deal.  

That victory would come at second singles, as Daniel Scripnik came back to defeat Florida Atlantic’s Jaoa Gauer 3-6, 7-6(10-5), 6-0, giving St. John’s a 4-2 win in its season opener.

After losing a hard-fought contest against Florida Gulf-Coast, St. John’s traveled to Coral Gables to take on the Miami Hurricanes. St. John’s would once again win the doubles point, but Miami would respond with three wins after the first five singles matches, leaving the contest to be decided at sixth singles.

Dusan Vukicevic, in his first year on the team, came up huge, fighting back from a set down and 1-3 down in the third set to beat Miami’s Fermin Calvo 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to clinch the 4-3 team victory.

“This victory was historic because Miami is one of the best tennis programs in the country,” said St. John’s head coach Eric Rebhuhn. “The team competed hard from start to finish and we are proud to get the win.”

In the final showdown of the road trip, St. John’s took on another formidable opponent in the University of Central Florida. Once again, the Red Storm doubles teams came up big, winning two of the three matches to take the doubles point.

Andrei Crapceno, along with Hejhal and Munshaw, would each win their respective singles match in straight sets to seal the deal for a 4-1 win over Central Florida and complete an outstanding season-opening road trip.

“This was an incredible trip for our team. We played four tough road matches against quality teams and really tested out our guys,” said Associate Head Coach Cory Hubbard. “I am proud of how we came together as a team and competed. Our guys were in a lot of pressure situations early in the season and came through with some very impressive wins. I don’t think any other team in the nation has played a tougher opening week with four road matches against such high-level competition.

This shows our program can compete and beat some of the top programs in the nation. I believe this start can lead to one of the best season for the Johnnies. Now we have to focus on improving each day and continue competing till the last point.”

The St. John’s women’s team also got off to a good start in 2016, defeating the University of South Florida 4-3, the first victory under new head coach Lauren Leo.