March 28, 2012
By Peter Kallin, Bucknell Athletic Communications
The majority of athletes would relish in the fact that they were in a nationally ranked poll, but when you bring that up to Bucknell tennis senior Gregg Cohenca and junior Evan Zimmer it seems to be a moot point.
The doubles partners and two-thirds of the captain trio for the men's tennis team view the ranking as just another perk of the hard work they have put in over the last few years. Their main focus is on the squad and improving the group as a whole.
The two captains, and usual No.1 doubles partners, are grinding their way into the record books at Bucknell. Cohenca needs just five more wins to move into sole possession of second place on the doubles all-time victories rankings. His current record is 65-44, which puts him at No. 4. Zimmer currently sits at No. 13 on the all-time doubles victories with a 47-24 record. With three more wins he can move inside the top 10.
Not only are the two making a name for themselves at Bucknell, but they are starting to make a splash on the national level as well. Cohenca and Zimmer are currently ranked No. 51 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings and are the only Bucknell duo to do so in recent memory.
It was a long process to find a pair that is compatible with each other, one that started back in the fall of 2011. It takes two strong players with different techniques and skills to make a good doubles partnership, and hours upon hours of match play.
Coach Rebecca Helt believes the rise in confidence and play of Cohenca and Zimmer started back when they beat Jason Lee and Russell Bader of Penn State in the second match of the season. Currently the Penn State pair ranks No. 25 in the ITA standings.
"It shows them just the caliber that they are able to play at, and we don't get a chance to do that very often because we don't play those kinds of teams," says Helt. "So I think that must have been a moment that showed them they could compete at that level."
Zimmer and Cohenca's main focus has always been on the team, but that's not to say that when they heard about being ranked they weren't excited.
"It really all started with our win over Penn State, which was a good match to win. I really believe that we were really relaxed and confident, and that's how we beat that team," explains Zimmer. "We weren't trying to play above our own games, we played our games and stuck to our fundamentals and were able to overcome them. That has been helping us all season."
"I think it is fun," says Cohenca. "We've been working hard and we didn't know anything about it. We were on the bus and coach Worth (Richardson) was messing around looking at ITA rankings. It was cool."
Doubles tennis matches in college are played with an eight-game pro set, and a squad must win two of three doubles matches to earn the team point. The ultimate win goes to the first team to four points including six singles matches. This puts a huge emphasis on doubles to gain an early lead before heading into singles play. Cohenca and Zimmer know the importance of winning that first team point.
"I think it's very important and the perfect example is Duquesne," says Cohenca. "We won that point and the momentum changed. It's a huge transition to singles."
Zimmer explains, "It's a big momentum thing. You expect to go into these matches and you're looking for 50 percent of the singles, which is three points. So doubles is huge."
One of the key components of a good team, and even more so a strong doubles team, is the relationship on and off the court. It is evident with their 21-5 doubles record together that Cohenca and Zimmer have chemistry and camaraderie on the court. Off the court the two, along with other members of the team, battle each other in video games such as FIFA soccer, yet another competition that builds chemistry, which seems to pay off for them on match day.
Helt has seen the significance Cohenca and Zimmer have had on the team this year.
"They've just been two of the most incredible leaders I've seen and maybe not for reasons that you would think of necessarily for captains. The way they have approached this year in terms of their goals, setting goals for themselves, and success on the court and for the team," explains Helt. "They really have stepped up and put the team first. The team wins first. They might go out and play an incredible match and win, but if the team loses they are down. They have really put the team first and care about the guys on the team. They've held everybody together. They have been real leaders and mentors on this team."
The Bison have moved past the halfway point in their season, but there are still many points to be won. Cohenca and Zimmer don't look very far into the future because that is out of their control. Their focus and goals are within that moment in time on the court.
"We like to take it one match at a time," states Zimmer. "We like to think short term, almost all the way down to that one point. We have to win this one point. I think that's been helping us this year." Zimmer goes on to say, "I truly believe that if we commit to what we need to do, we will be just as a successful as we have been all year. It comes down to us sticking to our game plans, simple shots, the fundamentals, making the other team play. That's what's going to keep our success going."
Cohenca agrees with Zimmer's views.
"Point by point, exactly what Zimmer is saying, short term memory. We're not thinking about the Patriot League Tournament. We're thinking about what's next. I think that is good for us," says Cohenca.
The two have very humble goals--think short term and commit to what they have been doing and the results will come. That seems to be their underlying motto and if it isn't broken, there's no need to fix it.