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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Freshman Catanzariti makes splash on SEC circuit for streaking Aggie men

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Photo by Cody Franklin

AJ Catanzariti hits a backhand at the March 15 match against Abilene Christian. 

AJ Catanzariti last lost more than a month ago, has won 11 straight matches and is the back-to-back-to-back SEC freshman of the week.

The Pittsburgh native has spent less than a year at Texas A&M, but already he has staked a leading role on the young, talented A&M tennis team. His unconventional path to College Station began when he first learned the game of tennis, following the trend set by his older sister.  

“I picked up a racket when I was three and started playing competitively when I was around seven,” Catanzariti said. 

Coming from Pittsburgh, head coach Steve Denton said it would have made sense for Catanzariti to attend a more northern school recruiting him, like Illinois or Ohio State, both of which are closer to home. After a campus visit, though, he came away with the connection he needed.

“Thankfully for us, he chose [A&M],” Denton said. “Maybe he wanted to get out of the cold and come to a warmer place.”

Catanzariti’s freshman campaign has been nothing short of impressive. He is on an 11-match singles winning streak and is 32-8 this season, 9-2 in the SEC. He has also been part of 17 doubles matches, losing only two.

As a team, A&M is on a nine-match tear. In that span, first-year Aggies are 18-0 and Catanzariti accounts for eight of those wins.

Denton said Catanzariti’s heightened play traces back to a moment early in his collegiate career. 

“What really tipped us off of how good he could be was how well he played at the All-American tournament in Tulsa,” Denton said. “He won eight matches over the course of the week and a half that we were there and I think that obviously relaxed him and gave him confidence that he could play at this level and he has continued to improve since then as well.”

However, the freshman doesn’t let the success get to his head. Instead, he relies on advice given to him when he was in high school. 

“Honestly, my coaches back when I was in [high school], they always just say like, ‘Just keep your head down and grind,’” Catanzariti said. “Once you’re on the court it’s a new match.”

Catanzariti and his freshman doubles partner, Arthur Rinderknech, continue to play well both together and individually for the Aggies, and part of that is due to their teamwork and focus when it comes time to perform. Catanzariti said having a teammate his age helps with chemistry and adds a new element of motivation. 

“We pump each other up before the match, we’re like, ‘Here we go,’ between us two — realistically with two people, if you’re playing well you could help the doubles point and that’s two singles points,” Catanzariti said. “We always tell each other we need each other.”

Being a student-athlete at a university like Texas A&M doesn’t allow for much free time, but Catanzariti and his teammates find time to indulge in a few things here and there unrelated to studying or playing tennis.

In addition to fiddling around with the guitar every once and a while with his teammate, Harry Adams, Catanzariti said there is one thing the A&M tennis team cannot go a day without — “our whole team has this game, Clash of Clans and we’re so obsessed with it,” Catanzariti said. 

The freshman has set the stage for a long, promising career at Texas A&M, and he and the Aggies are looking to finish the year strong and protect their national top-eight ranking and place as the No. 2 team in the SEC. 

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