SALEM, Mass. – Salem State has a new face at the helm of its defending Little East championship squad. Ken Hodgkins '13 takes over the reins from Tim Stonecipher, who led the team to just its second Little East Tournament title in the program's history in 2018 with a 5-1 win over UMass Boston after a second place conference finish (13-5, 5-1). Hodgkins, who in no stranger to the Vikings' tennis team, having been a three-year player for Salem State (2011-13), including an all-conference season in 2012, expects the team to build off its momentum from a season ago, which would culminate in their second consecutive conference championship.
The team will return defending Little East Player and Rookie of the Year, sophomore Andrew Muttiah (Columbo, Sri Lanka) who had an unprecedented freshman season, compiling a 12-4 singles record, including a perfect 5-0 slate in league play at first singles, and an 11-5 record in first doubles where he also earned first team honors. Muttiah is expected to have an even better second season and will set the tone for how far this Vikings' team can plateau.
Salem State returns an array of talent and depth this year to support their goal of another championship.
Team captain Chen Chen (Lawrence, Mass.) a three-time all-conference selection earned second team singles honors after posting a 9-3 mark at second singles, including a 5-1 LEC mark in 2018. Chen looks to become a back to back conference champion to end his college career.
Senior John Didonato (Newbury, Mass.) also returns, bolstering an already potent lineup, earning first team doubles honors with Muttiah after securing eight wins at third singles a seaon ago.
The fourth returning all-conference player, sophomore Roni Bazile (Brockton, Mass.), had an impressive 13 victories playing from the fourth singles position where he produced an 8-2 record, and along with senior Noah Hodgkins (Winthrop, Mass.) – six singles victories in 2018, and Mitchell Dyer (North Attleboro, Mass.), who together posted an impressive 11-2 (.846) record at third doubles, should continue their excellent point production this year.
Incoming freshman players Moses Ba (Lynn Mass.) and Johnson Ngandjui (Lynn Mass.) look to come in and make an impact on the team right away. Both will compete for starts this year and have displayed great potential for future success with the program.
"This is a great group of guys who are really eager to get back on the courts and defend their title," said Hodgkins. "We had a great fall season to prepare, and I am very excited to see how we can continue to progress throughout the season. Although the conference has gotten stronger I think that we have what it takes to compete for another LEC championship."
2019 LEC Men's Tennis Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Salem State - 53 points (5)
2. UMass Boston - 44 points (1)
3. UMass Dartmouth - 43 points (1)
4. Rhode Island College - 42 points (1)
5. Western Connecticut - 28 points
6. Bridgewater State - 24 points
7. Castleton - 21 points
8. Southern Maine - 14 points