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RCC Men’s Tennis Team Wins Region Title

RCC Men’s Tennis Team Wins Region Title

The Rockland Hawks pose with the Region XV championship trophy. Front row (l. to r.): Felipe Robles, Juan Huertas, Michael Escobar. Back row (l. to r.): Jovan Rivera, Akaki Utalishvili, Ulyana Kitcmanuk, Akinari Hotta, Daniel Rivera, MacGregor Graham.

DATE: May 2, 2017

Doubles Domination Leads RCC Men’s Tennis Team to Region Title

Second straight crown for Hawks, who qualify for nationals

RAMAPO – The power of teamwork led the Rockland Community College men’s tennis squad to the Region XV championship. The Hawks swept all three doubles flights as they captured the Region title for the second straight year.

Rockland came into the tournament as the third seed, but the strength of the Hawks’ regular-season schedule made them a battle-tested squad. In the event held at Suffolk Community College, Rockland finished three points ahead of second-place Nassau to pull off the surprise win.

“My kids played awesome,” said RCC fifth-year head coach Joseph Gravagna. “I knew my team was peaking. We played our best tennis of the year this weekend.”

Leading the way for the Hawks was Felipe Robles, an international student from Colombia. Robles captured the title at second singles, and combined with Juan Huertas, also from Colombia, to earn the crown at first doubles.

“I wanted to do well, but the biggest thing is helping my team win,” Robles said. “That was my greatest accomplishment.”

Rockland’s second doubles team of MacGregor Graham, a graduate of Nyack High School, and Akinari Hotta, an international student from Japan, also earned top honors. And the Hawks completed the sweep of the doubles thanks to twins Daniel and Jovan Rivera, both Nyack High School alumni, who captured the title at third doubles.

Gravagna noted that nothing came easy for his doubles pairings. All of the finals went the full three sets, with each final match lasting over three-and-a-half hours.

“It took a lot of endurance,” said Graham, the team captain. “You’ve got to be in the right mental state.”

With the three doubles finals going on at the same time, RCC players found themselves somewhat distracted. “We cheered and gave support to our teammates between points,” Robles said. “Coach kept telling us to focus on our own match.”

Another contributor to the championship was Ulyana Kitcmanuk, a female student who plays at sixth singles. Unable to compete in the fall when RCC could not field a women’s tennis team, the Spring Valley High School grad has held her own against the men. Set to graduate this spring with a 3.8 GPA, Kitcmanuk has earned a scholarship to St. Thomas Aquinas College.

Michael Escobar, from California, and Akaki Utalishvili, an international student from the Republic of Georgia, round out the team’s lineup.

This is the first time that RCC has captured back-to-back Region XV men’s tennis championships since 1975-76. The feat is even more impressive since the Hawks did not return a single player from last year’s title-winning team.

“If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would go this far, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Graham said.

“Their hard work has really paid off,” Gravagna added.

The Hawks now head to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, based at Collin College in Plano, Texas, from May 15-19. Last year, Rockland placed sixth in the nation; Gravagna and his players express confidence that they can do even better this year.