By CYNTHIA BLADE CHAVEZ

    “”Our freshmen have ability and are learning what they will need to do to improve their games,”” Steidlmayer said. “”They are fitting in well, and I expect great things for the future.””

    Steidlmayer looks to every player on the team to step up and improve their games, especially sophomore Brent Molden, who has the potential to play very well this season. And with the departure of last year’s captain, Meyer, the Tritons look to senior Jeff Wilson and junior Emil Novak to lead their teammates.

    Wilson and senior Sameer Chopra will pair up to play the top-ranked doubles for the Tritons. Their second-place finish at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Small College Championships last October earned them a No. 3 national ranking in Division II. The other two doubles teams are yet to be determined, while four of the five singles slots are currently occupied by Wilson, 17th-ranked junior Bryan Swatt, 25th-ranked Chopra and 39th-ranked Emil Novak.

    Chopra played mostly at the top position in singles last year and was voted Most Valuable Player for a second year in a row by his teammates. Swatt, who previously won the 41-person singles draw at the ITA Fall West Regional Championships last October, competed mostly at No. 2 singles and also paired up with Chopra last season to play No. 1 doubles. The Most Improved Player of 2003 is optimistic about the upcoming season.

    “”This is the best chance we have to advance to nationals,”” Swatt said. “”We have a bright outlook because we have older guys with experience who can help the younger guys.””

    Emil Novak, who posted a 19-2 singles record at the fourth and fifth slot, holds the school singles record for career winning percentage. Wilson, like Chopra and Swatt, is a solid player who steadily contributed on the singles and doubles end last season, including a team-high 19-5 doubles record with sophomore Tomas Novak.

    Seniors Sean Higginbotham and Amir Nejad, junior Nick Morton and sophomores Tomas Novak and Erik Oijala, and freshmen Spector and Gipe will vie for the final starting positions.

    Armed with nationally ranked players who have steadily improved their games over the seasons as well as returning and new talent, UCSD is looking to be a force on the national scene. Team support, however, is vital to the success of the upcoming season, according to Steidlmayer.

    “”I think the key factor to our improvement is our ability to motivate each other, to help each other on a daily basis, regardless of our individual situations,”” Steidlmayer said. “”If we do that, we will be great.””

    UCSD’s season will begin on Feb. 4 with a match against Azusa Pacific.

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