LEWISBURG, PA – Coming off one of the most successful seasons in recent history in which Evan Zimmer (Essex Fells, N.J./West Essex) and Gregg Cohenca became the first Bison in program history to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Bucknell men’s tennis will kick off its 2012-13 campaign with the Bucknell Quad this weekend. The fall tournament, which will feature foes from Saint Francis (Pa.), Loyola (Md.) and Niagara in addition to the Bison, runs Sept. 7-9 at the Varsity Tennis Courts.

The 2011 Bucknell Quad was canceled due to flooding, but the Bison played two of this weekend’s opponents in dual matches last spring. Bucknell defeated Saint Francis 7-0 in the first dual of the season. Despite the lopsided score, doubles play was especially tight as the Bison won at Nos. 1 and 3 each by a score of 9-7. The Red Flash won 8-6 at second doubles. A few weeks later, the Orange and Blue had a tougher time against Niagara, falling 4-3. All three of Bucknell’s wins came in singles action, and the Purple Eagles swept doubles.

Below is a more in-depth look at Bucknell men’s tennis’ upcoming 2012-13 season.

Maturity, experience and heightened expectations are the name of the game for Bucknell men’s tennis in 2012-13. The Bison return all but two of their letterwinners from a year ago, and in that mix of those back for another turn is a trio of seniors who have long solidified themselves as some of the most noteworthy players in recent history. With the help of veteran captains Josh Katten, Kelly Morque and Evan Zimmer as well as highly touted freshman Nick Bybel, Bucknell is poised to make some noise in the Patriot League and make a run at a championship title.

“If things go the way we are planning, if we execute our plan, I feel this could be the year we get to the finals,” said Rebecca Helt, who is entering her 11th season as the Bison men’s head coach. “It just comes down to execution.”

Bucknell should have the tools to make sure that happens, and few will gather more attention than the Orange and Blue’s senior triumvirate. Katten and Zimmer return this season having claimed more victories than any other Bison during the 2011-12 season. Zimmer, who made up one-half of the Bison doubles duo that earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Championships berth last spring, finished his junior campaign with 50 combined wins. Of those, 31 came on the doubles court, which became the new Bucknell standard for most doubles wins in a single season. A Second Team All-Patriot League honoree, Zimmer went 20-6 with recent graduate and fellow NCAA Championships participant Gregg Cohenca and 11-1 with Katten.

Katten finished his junior season with 47 total victories. His 22-11 record in singles gave him the most wins among Bison last year, but his 25-10 doubles mark was nothing to scoff at either. Like Zimmer, Katten also ranks among the best Bison in single-season doubles wins, finishing the year tied for fourth. He and Zimmer were also 5-0 in doubles together during regular-season conference play, and both Bison surpassed the 100 career combined wins mark last spring.

Not to be left out, Morque has been making his presence felt in the lineup more and more over the years. His wins total in singles has increased with each passing season and his doubles record, which was 18-14 last year, has consistently been among the best on the team.

That Bucknell had such doubles success last season comes as no surprise to those on the practice courts with the Bison. The first to admit that her team often struggled in doubles play in previous years, Helt made the necessary adjustments and the results followed.

“We didn’t have a lot of natural doubles players coming onto the team, so last year we really focused hard on doubles and that year’s worth of work and focus really paid off for us in the end.”

Specifically that work could be seen as the Bison won 14 of a possible 24 doubles points. Bucknell was also claimed all five doubles points in Patriot League regular-season action.

“All three seniors have learned so much over the past three years and not only have they learned, but they have learned to apply it and they’ve learned to teach it to the younger guys,” Helt praised. “I do look for them to leave a few marks before they leave.”

Younger but no less experienced is the junior class of Scott Bernstein, Aidan Lynch, Kyle Rosen and Chris Tortora. Rosen earned a regular spot among singles starters and went 17-14 playing at the bottom half of the lineup a year ago. Those 17 victories rank as the third-most among returning Bison behind only Katten and Zimmer.

Tortora saw his greatest success in the fall, claiming 10 of his 11 singles wins and all six of his doubles victories during tournament play. Lynch, on the other hand, worked his way into the lineup later in the year, catapulting to No. 1 doubles with Cohenca late in the spring.

“We have a solid group of juniors who are getting a little bit tired of waiting,” said Helt. “They’re ready to make a solid impact once and for all, so they’ve worked hard over the summer.”

Bucknell’s group of underclassmen includes sophomores Octavio Canibe, Jonathan DeFrancesch and Roy Skinner, and the lone incoming rookie Bybel. Canibe showed flashes of what he would accomplish during the fall season. As a freshman, he went 10-2 in singles, made two tournament finals and finished with one title. He ultimately closed his debut season 17-12 in singles playing primarily in the middle of the lineup. DeFrancesch joined the team in the spring and is expected to continue to contribute in the new season.

“Those guys have come back a lot more physically fit than they were last year,” complimented Helt. “The two of them will definitely make an impact this year.”

Despite being new to the group, Bybel will be looked to almost immediately. The highest ranked junior player ever to grace Bucknell’s roster, the freshman is likely to push his teammates from the start and contend for a position at the top of the lineup.

Patriot League play for the Bison opens March 23, 2013 at Navy and concludes with the conference championships in Hamilton, N.Y., April 19-21.