WALTHAM, Mass. – Although they haven’t played a match since October 16, the Brandeis tennis teams, under fifth-year head coach Ben Lamanna, are having a successful off-season. In the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll of the fall season, the Judge women were ranked 29th in the nation. Meanwhile, the Brandeis men have been productive off the court, volunteering on a weekly basis with the ACEing Autism program in Wayland, Mass.

Rachel Rosman '11The Brandeis women posted a 3-0 record in the fall season and are ranked 29th in the nation in Division III. Behind junior Rachel Rosman (Bonita Springs, Fla./Estero) and rookie Faith Broderick(Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville) at the top of the line-up, the Judges bested Wheaton (Mass.) College, 8-1, and Simmons College and Division II Bentley University, 9-0. The win over Wheaton was especially impressive, as the Lyons went on to earn their conference championship later in the season. The national ranking is the first for the Brandeis women since 2003, when they were also 29that the end of the regular season.

The Judges will kick off their spring season with a trip to the Orlando, Fla., area, in February. They return to New England action on March 13 with matches against University Athletic Association rival NYU and regional power Middlebury in Vermont before their opening home match on March 28 against another UAA foe, the University of Rochester.

Steven Nieman '11 helps with ACEing AutismOn the men’s side, the Judges won both their fall matches, but they have also been winners off the court. Working with ACEing Autism each weekend since the end of their season, the Brandeis men have been active at the Longfellow Tennis Club in Wayland. Working with two or three children at a time for two 45-minute sessions and utilizing the Longfellow’s specially-modified ZipZone courts, senior captain Seth Rogers of Gainesville, Fla., and his teammates have been involved with children with autism from ages four to 16, keeping them active and happy, since ACEing Autism was founded in September of 2008. “It’s been fun for us as much as the kids,” Rogers says. “Everyone loves seeing how happy the kids get. I think they really look forward to their Saturdays.”

ACEing Autism’s mission is to make the sport of tennis available to children with autism and to use tennis as a means to enhance health and fitness, hand-eye coordination and motor development and improve the social skills for children with autism.

Founded by the husband and wife team of Richard Spurling, a tennis professional, and Shafali Spurling Jeste, a pediatric neurologist studying the brain basis for autism, the organization has flourished since its creation two years ago.  The weekly on court sessions give children, ages four though sixteen, a cost-effective activity that is all too rare for children with these special needs.  The kids are not only introduced to the basics of tennis, but they are given the opportunity to make meaningful social connections with other children in their age group.

“The Brandeis men’s tennis team has been an invaluable addition to ACEing Autism,” said Spurling. “The children in the program look forward to seeing the Brandeis players and they are forming a special friendship.  We look forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come.”