Lords Are the Favorites In NCAC Men's Tennis

Kenyon senior Michael Liu (L), junior Nicholaas Paolucci (M) and sophomore Jacob Zalenski (R)
Kenyon senior Michael Liu (L), junior Nicholaas Paolucci (M) and sophomore Jacob Zalenski (R)

2018 NCAC Men's Tennis Preseason Poll

Kenyon has once again been selected as the favorites for the North Coast Athletic Conference men's tennis championship based on preseason balloting by eight of the nine league coaches.

Kenyon collected six of the possible eight first-place votes cast by league coaches to finish atop the poll with 70 total points, while Denison earned the final two first-place votes and finished second overall with 64 points. Oberlin checked in at third with 55 points, while DePauw was fourth with 45, followed by a tie between Ohio Wesleyan and Wabash in fifth with 38 points each. Rounding out the poll was Wooster in seventh with 24 points, Allegheny in eighth (15) and Wittenberg in ninth (11). 

The Lords, who have won 11-straight NCAC titles and 20 all-time, enter the 2018 season ranked 25th in the ITA Preseason Poll and boasts a veteran-laden roster with seven seniors, five juniors and four sophomores. Senior Michael Liu (Newmarket, Ontario, Canada/Georges Vanier) leads the list of returning seniors after compiling an overall record of 13-8 in the third singles slot a year ago, while classmates Weston Noall (Solon, OH/Gilmour Academy) and Alex Rieger (Madison, CT/Daniel Hand) are the top returning doubles squad after combining for a 10-9 record in the first position last year. While that trio leads the senior class, junior Nicholas Paolucci (Grosse Pointe, MI/South) and sophomore Jacob Zalenski (Canton, OH/Jackson) are the top two returning singles players for the Lords this season. The duo combined for an overall singles record of 36-22 in 2017, which included Paolucci posting a 7-10 mark in the top spot and Zalenski producing an 11-6 record in the second position. In addition, Zalenski earned a spot on the All-NCAC first team and was voted the NCAC Newcomer of the Year, while Paolucci earned second-team laurels as a sophomore. The Lords will once again be led by Scott Thiekle in his 22nd as the head coach of the Kenyon men's tennis team with an overall of 373-134, which includes leading the Lords to 16-straight NCAA Tournament appearances since 2002.

Kenyon leads the NCAC with 20 championships in 33 years (1989, 1991-93, '95, 2002-05, 2007-17), including winning 15 of the last 16 conference titles. Denison is not far off in the all-time title count with 12 championships (1985-89, '94, 1997-01, '06); Wooster has captured two outright titles (1990, '96) and four all-time. Denison and Wooster shared the inaugural title in 1985, while Denison, Kenyon and Wooster were declared tri-champions in 1989.

Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, DePauw University, Denison University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey). The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.

2017 North Coast Athletic Conference
Men's Tennis
Coaches' Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses, followed by total points)

1. Kenyon (6) 70
2. Denison (2) 64
3. Oberlin 55
4. DePauw 45
5. Ohio Wesleyan 38
  Wabash 38
7. Wooster 24
8. Allegheny 15
9. Wittenberg 11