The Emory Journey

Every year, we are blessed with a new DIII Tennis Season – one that ends with a new champion, no matter what the year. New players take the journey through the NCAA Tournament against the toughest of foes, hoping to prevail at the very end and lift the DIII NCAA trophy. This year is no different, as the 2017 Emory Eagles were the final team standing. Five years ago, when I became a blogger, I decided that each and every championship should be commended in their own way. I am a big believer in senior captains, and I believe senior captains of championship teams each have their own unique story to tell. This year will be my first time writing one of these articles for an Atlantic South team, so it is a little bit of a nice moment for my region. I never know where these articles are going to go, but they always seem to work out. And off we go, on the Emory Journey.

This year, Emory will be graduating two seniors – and if you know them, they probably couldn’t be much different in personalities. Both have played integral parts in the Emory championship this year, but also the development of the 2017 Championship Team. Those two seniors are Aman Manji and Josh Goodman. Much like the other journey articles I’ve written, these seniors have never won a championship in their careers. This is why we harp on seniors so much at the blog – because it’s hard to win championships. Seniors go through their ups and downs and development and learn what it takes to win. I think these two seniors are another prime example of that, much like every one of the past championship seniors. Let’s take a look back at the past 4 years of the Emory program – because it takes more than 1 year to win a championship, and that’s something that should be recognized.

2013-2014 Season

Now two years removed from the dynasty of Dillon Pottish and Chris Goodwin-led (well, as a player) teams, the Eagles were coming off a tough defeat to the eventual champion Amherst Jeffs in the 2013 season. The always rich recruiting pipeline that enters the Emory program was still alive, as it had produced big time names such as Rafe Mosetick, Eric Halpern, Alex Ruderman, and Ian Wagner in the past two years. Prior to the 2014 season, the recruiting calss produced the following two players:

  • Joshua Goodman, 4 Star Recruit from Weston, Florida – Ranked #123 in the Nation
  • Aman Manji, 3 Star Recruit from Sammamish, Washington – Ranked #346 in the Nation

Things were looking up for the Eagles as they didn’t graduate too many players going into the year and were banking on their youthful team lead by juniors Ruderman/Halpern/Wagner to get them back to the Final 4. However, the young Eagles then realized that things get kind of tough without two automatic points at the top of the lineup with an ever-improving DIII landscape. Emory was shocked multiple times this season, starting with a surprising upset to Johns Hopkins University at Indoor Nationals, which has previously been Emory’s bread and butter tournament. They then suffered a loss to Wash U in the Stag-Hen Tournament later that year as well. And perhaps most surprisingly, Emory did not reach the UAA Final for the first time in many, many years, as they lost to Carnegie Mellon University in the UAA Semifinal. Throughout the year, Emory was plagued by their lack of doubles play and that reared it’s ugly head in the Elite 8 as Emory again lost to an Amherst team that simply outmatched them. If you are wondering where our two seniors were in all of this, well, get this. Neither Goodman nor Manji played most of the year, as these two guys supported the Eagles from the bench most of their freshman year. Interesting how careers start out, and kudos to these two for not turning into forgotten recruits as some Emory players seem to do.

2014-2015 Season

A new season, and new expectations. A team led by three seniors (Rud, Halp, Wags) should be successful, right? This was a year that I personally picked the Eagles to be front runners in the pre-season. They lost almost no important players, brought in another crop of recruits, and had another year to gel into a team that could take down the Amhersts and Middleburys of the world. Spoiler alert, this would not be the year that Emory would take a title, as we all know. Throughout the year, Emory did a lot of winning. However, they took two important losses – one to Trinity TX in the Indoors final, which was Trinity’s first ever Indoors championship, and another regular season loss to Middlebury on the road. They did take two VERY important matches against their hated but respected rival, Wash U. First time was at Indoor Nationals, which as you know is Emory’s jam. The second time was in the UAA Final, where Emory prevailed by the score of 5-4. I remember this match distinctly, because this was the first time both Josh Goodman and Aman Manji played in the UAA Tournament. In the win, the following happened:

Josh Goodman def. Kevin Chu, 6-2, 6-3 @ #5 Singles

Jason Haugen def. Aman Manji, 6-1, 6-2 @ #6 Singles

This was the match where Goodman was infamously yelling things about the weather in St. Louis, but all that aside, these two got their first taste of big match tennis. Interesting to see the players they played, and especially interesting that Manji got routed by Haugen at #6 singles.

However, this was the high point of their season. Emory went onto the Elite 8 to face off against a very familiar foe once again… you guessed it, Wash U. In what is now remembered as a match that had a ridiculous set of circumstances in Mason, Ohio, the Eagles were defeated by the Bears despite beating them twice already throughout the season. This was a match where senior leader Eric Halpern was decimated by Ross Putterman, 0 and 0 despite beating him three weeks prior. However, I want to keep the focus on the two seniors, and these were their results in the 5-3 Wash U victory.

Johnny Wu def. Josh Goodman, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 @ #5 Singles

Jason Haugen def. Aman Manji, 7-6, 6-4 @ #6 Singles

Welcome to the big leagues, Goodman and Manji. This was a year of learning for the two sophomore Eagles, as we all found out that team chemistry might be a bit more important than team talent. When things went a little astray for the Eagles, the more disciplined team won. Goodman and Manji both took their lumps at NCAAs and I am sure that it stung. But lessons learned are important for the future….

2015-2016 Season

Again, the Eagles entered this season with championship hopes, as they were voted as the front-runner by me (once again) to win the whole damn thing. Things went smoothly throughout the season, as the Eagles went undefeated despite losing Ruderman, Halpern, and Wagner.  They combatted this via two ways. Recruits James Spaulding, Jonathan Jemison, and Adrien Bouchet played integral roles in the Emory lineup. But also, Aman Manji took another jump in his play and finished the year playing #3 singles. And when I say played #3 singles, he played #3 singles. Dude was a beast. For example, I’d like to point to the fact that Aman Manji played two spots higher than Jason Haugen of Wash U – however, here’s a little sampling of his results.

Aman Manji def. Tyler Kratky, 7-5, 6-3

Aman Manji def. Daniel Morkovine, 6-4, 6-2

Aman Manji def. Charlie Pei, 7-5, 6-4

Manji was defeating the best #3s in the country and it was 0 problem to him. This was a player who just the previous year, had lost to the Tufts #6 player in straight sets. Can you believe that? If it was not clear how much the man from Washington had improved, you can see it in the results. This is a guy that takes tennis seriously and something that has been with him his whole life. Meanwhile, Josh Goodman continued to grind away at #5 singles, doing his best to be a confident leader for the Emory team. It seemed as if Emory was going to take the title, until the Bowdoin match happened.  We all know what happened now, but Emory took a 2-1 lead against the Polar Bears in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament and all seemed like it would go well for the Eagles. Until, the unthinkable happened:

Luke Tercek def. Rafe Mosetick

Luke Trinka def. Aman Manji, 7-6, 6-4

Gil Roddy def. Josh Goodman, 6-4, 6-2

In four sets, the Emory juniors took two tough losses along with their senior leader Rafe Mosetick to send the Eagles home packing. This was an absolute shocker and one that no one saw coming. Manji had been the best #3 in all of DIII all year, and all of a sudden in the Final 4, Trinka beat him. It was like out of a storybook. But out of every losing situation, one can either give up or use it as motivation for next time. What do you think Aman Manji did?

2016-2017 – The Championship Year

And we finally have made it to the Emory Championship year. Again picked by me to win it all (third time’s the charm), Emory started off the year strong. This was led by none other than senior leader Manji, who had suffered NCAA losses the two years prior and was hungry for one last shot at the title. The year started with Manji blowing through the Fall ITA Tournament, winning it all and winning Small College Nationals as well. From a #6 player his sophomore year, Manji became the #1 player in the nation in about two years.

Using the strength of their recruiting classes as well as incredible development from their top player, Emory steamrolled through Indoors with wins over their top UAA foes. They suffered only one blemish this past year; losing to Middlebury in Texas by the score of 6-3. They entered the NCAA Tournament as UAA Champions once again, and they were faced with an eerily similar foe in the Final 4 – The Bowdoin Polar Bears. Box score is below, and I’d like to point out the following:

http://www.emoryathletics.com/sports/mten/2016-17/files/eu-bow.htm

Aman Manji def. Luke Tercek, 6-1, 6-4

Josh Goodman vs. Gil Roddy, 7-6, 2-6

Manji avenged his loss from the year prior with a straight set win over Bowdoin’s best player. Goodman fought his way to a first set against a player who schooled him the year before. The two seniors represent the words that are across their backs on their uniforms, and that is one word you’ve seen me say all year – FIGHT. The fight was not over, of course, as Emory still had one opponent remaining. That opponent was the CMS Stags, who had just come back once again from a 3-0 deficit against the previous #1 team in the country, the Middlebury Panthers. CMS had everything going for them – the momentum, the belief, and that aura that nothing would stop them, not even doubles deficits. It seemed as if CMS was the team of destiny, led by 4 seniors and a never quit attitude. And… the boxscore is here:

http://www.emoryathletics.com/sports/mten/2016-17/Emory_v_CMS.pdf

Emory swept the Stags and never looked back, doing something that almost every other team this year could not do, and that was finish off the Stags in a clutch situation. What I find interesting here is that Emory won 5-2, and that is with Manji losing in the final in three sets and Goodman not even finishing his match. While the two seniors surely wished that they were the ones clinching a championship, the fact of the matter remained. The journey for Manji and Goodman was over, and it had finally resulted in an NCAA Championship.

The Coach (and Asst. Coach)

Despite all the focus on the seniors, I would be stupid not to mention Coach John Browning, who has reigned over the Emory program for years. Coach Browning was kind enough to join us for an interview on the blog this year, and I must say it was one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. While many say that Coach Browning has an “easy” job, the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t. These are talented kids, but Emory does not bring in the #1 recruiting class every year. Coach Browning brings in recruits that fit his program, that fit his team chemistry, and develops them into players that are forces in DIII. If you listened to his podcast, he has a wealth of DIII knowledge, and he has experience with years and years of players coming through his system. Coach Browning does an outstanding job. I’ve received emails from his players and former players praising him for the work that he does, and it is important to have a connection with your players if you are going to get the most out of them. John Browning does that, and that shows in his success.

Moving on, I would be totally crazy not to mention another pint-sized fellow who happens to be the assistant coach of the Eagles this year, and that would be Rafe Mosetick. Rafe has never been one of the humblest players in DIII history, admittedly, but no one, and no one ever, can question the amount of passion and heart Mosetick puts into Eagles Tennis. I mentioned this in a tweet, but it was said to me that “Rafe Mosetick might mean more to this team as a coach than he did as a player” and quite honestly, I might agree. Being a coach this year allowed Rafe the ability to always care about the team as a whole, instead of needing to juggle his on-court responsibilities with being the team leader. If you take a look at Emory’s championship picture – you’ll see Rafe sweating like he just came off the court from a match. Dedication has always been in Mosetick’s blood, and he is just as deserving of this championship as any of the players are. Kudos to you, young Mosetick.

FIN

And with that, I will leave you with another chapter in the DIII Tennis History books. One that ended with the Emory Eagles claiming another championship, but more importantly, showed a few young Eagles how hard work will always pay off. This is another classic example of how a team grows with it’s players and how hard it is to win championships. Just think, I could have been writing similar stories about the CMS seniors. But alas, I am not, and today’s article is for Emory. Last year, I pointed out Luke Trinka and his improvement and how that can change everything for a team. This year, you can clearly see once again how that improvement can change it all. Aman Manji went from bench player to the #1 player in the nation. That changed Emory from a Final 4 loser last year to the National Champions. So again, DIII Tennis, I will leave on this note. It’s about improvement.  It’s about dedication.  It’s about selflessness and teamwork.  If you get enough players on your team that buy into this, you have every right to contend for a national championship.  Take that lesson from Aman Manji and the 2016-2017 Emory Eagles. Congratulations on a great season, boys. We shall see some of you again next year. And with that, ASouth, OUT.

  5 comments for “The Emory Journey

  1. southerntennisfan
    June 19, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    The Emory wins from 5/13. 5/14, 5/22, and 5/23 are not entered into the ITA database; the only playoff win input is the 5/24 final. Since they are not in ITA, they are not in UTR. Hate to see those guys miss out on the UTR bump this summer-could make a difference in seeding for summer tournaments. I dont know what other playoff results are missing in ITA d3 results database. I noticed this when looking up UTR for a d3 player we know who played in playoffs. Looked into it when I didnt see May wins.

    • Tx D3 Rising
      June 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      This is a huge problem with D3 (& also with low level D1). Not sure why the Bloggers (& some coaches) are fixated on “Stars” (which are already inaccurate and outdated) when the current TRN national ranking & (more importantly) UTR is a rank that the “other” 90% of us use to Seed and also to assess (for a recruit) whether a team is a “Fit” or not.

      If the Coaches (or Tournament Directors) aren’t imputing results (for UTR ranking purposes), they are doing their players a dis-service, especially the ones who play in non-college events. (Adult tournaments, Summer ITA events, UTR events, etc.) This is especially important for the year end results. (Both TEAM and Individual).

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention Southern Tennis Fan.

      • D3AtlanticSouth
        June 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

        How are we fixated on stars? We’ve been including UTR in a lot of different articles, and in this article I reference both stars and national TRN? Yea, we talk about stars, but it’s not like we totally ignore the other metrics. Also, TRN is really the only way to look at historical rankings, I believe, so that’s helpful.

        • Tx D3 Rising
          June 22, 2017 at 7:51 pm

          Agreed that TRN provides good historical data.

          & I see a LOT of posts an tweets regarding TRN Stars (when the TRN ending national ranking is just as easy to post and is more accurate). I’ve noticed this often. Just off the top of my head:

          – first 4 star going to Cal Tech. (when the 3 star from last year is at #120 & the “4 star” from this year is #220).
          – 2 star stud from Coe (but he was at #220, not at 420 – or 720…MUCH better than a so called 2 star.)
          – 4 stars going to Chicago, CMU & Emory (all I believe from last year, when in fact they were all ranked 50-65)
          – a comment at how amazed a 3 star from Trinity was playing (he was at #125)
          – several times I read where a certain 4 star was a “disappointment”, when (in reality) he had dropped all the way to the high 200s by Sept, so clearly not a 4 star. This is a case where touting one’s “4 Star Recruit” is actually damaging (to the kid). Again….look at the 4 star kid from Cal Tech (HS senior this year) and compare him to the so called 3 star (who was 120-125) from last year. Who do you think will be the stronger player?

          The Stars are OFTEN not accurate (& are merely a marketing gimmick) & shouldn’t be used…not when the TRN ending National Number is just as available & is much more accurate (6 months more accurate).

          The TRN Stars are an advertising gimick for TRN designed for the parents of 6th graders and the for pay academies that cater to them. NOT for a graduating HS Senior…since it only reflects the Fall Semester results – when many D3 caliber players are playing TEAM tennis. (& disregards the Spring & Summer season) It’s no surprise that quality HS players on quality HS teams see a jump in the Spring and Summer, while academy kids see a drop. Check out all the 3 star kids (with TRNs in the 120-180s) & 4 star kids (with TRNs under 70)….& then to contrast, check out the so called 4 star D3s with TRNs over 220.

          I like TRN (& really like UTR), not knocking them…but the “stars” just confuse matters when describing a player (when the TRN national ranking is just as available…..& is a point in time ranking in Sept (when they are actually entering College) & it covers the late spring & summer prior to college, where as the “star ranking” covers the PREVIOUS year.

          Back on Topic – Kids looking to possibly attend D3 or low level D1 are looking at UTR rankings and recent player activity….If D3 tournament directors or D3 coaches aren’t entering end of year Team and Individual results, they are shooting themselves in the foot. High level HS seniors are looking at these UTR numbers & results (for college players) to determine if a school is a fit. I know, because my kid is one.

          I had the same complaint last summer with the ITA summer series as TRN doesn’t recognize it at all & UTR only entered in about 1/3 of the results. & these were tournaments where there was actual cross play (between D1 & D3 players) where D3 stood to get some nice bumps (as well as HS Jrs and Srs who might be playing).

        • Agreed
          June 23, 2017 at 10:10 am

          It’d be neat to self-archive some UTRs. When a crop of freshmen enter, record their UTRs somewhere and then in 4 years look at which schools tend to have players whose UTRs increase by more than their peer schools and for which schools the opposite is true. Schools like Case on the men’s side and Bowdoin on the women’s side always seem to make the most of the recruits they bring in.

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