Daunting early season schedule cues hot GLIAC season for Lakers
After losing eight of 10 to begin 2011, Lakers have rattled off 11 victories in 12 tries
While others may have reached for the panic button after a 2-8 start to the season, the Grand Valley State University men’s tennis team used experience to fuel a formidable 7-1 record in GLIAC play and a No. 9 ranking in the region.
The team knew all along that the start to the season was going to be a test that would ultimately help prepare it for the competition the GLIAC would serve up later. GVSU took on some of the best teams in the country during its spring break trip to Orlando, Fla.
Junior Marc Roesslein said the upperclassmen had to explain to the younger players that the purpose of the early matches was to prepare them for the actual conference season.
“We had to make clear that all those matches we had for the preparation were really hard and tough matches,” he said. “Looking back right now, I think it was a really good thing to play a lot of hard teams because whenever it got difficult, like in the GLIAC competition, we play solid tennis and get the points we need.”
Junior Josh Kazdan said many of the freshmen on the team were not accustomed to losing in high school and were able to see what it takes to compete at a high level during the beginning of this season. He added that last year the team was not in the position to have a chance to be at the top of the GLIAC standings like they are this season.
“Our entire season is a goal to get to nationals, and we’re very close to accomplishing that goal,” Kazdan said. “That’s why we’re doing so well in [GLIAC competition], because we are way more prepared than we would have been if we hadn’t played those matches.”
This year’s team lost six players from last season, including four seniors. As it stands now, the seven-man roster is only one player over the required amount of players needed to compete.
Some of the teams the Lakers have beaten this year, like Wayne State University, have more than 10 players on the squad. The added numbers allow more options for resting players or dealing with injuries.
Freshman tennis player Trey Keating said the upperclassmen on the team have done a good job helping the freshmen get used to playing doubles, and their encouragement has helped the team become a cohesive unit.
“When we’re on the court, we’re constantly cheering for each other,” Keating said. “We’re such a small team. We have the bare minimum one player off the court, and the person can’t cheer all the time for every court, so we have to keep constantly pumping each other up.”
The limited roster means that even the freshmen on the team have important roles at the most important times. The mixture of youth and experience has paid off for the Lakers, who currently have three doubles pairs made up of upperclassmen players paired with freshmen.
Kazdan said even with the team’s success this season, he expects the team to be even stronger next year with the opportunity to return six of their seven current players.
“I’d say that we have a very good foundation to set up for our team next year,” Kazdan said. “With six of us out of seven returning, we’re just going to keep adding to that, so you’re just building on top of a pretty strong, solid, young foundation right now.”
The team played against Northwood University yesterday, but the results were unavailable at press time. The Lakers will next compete in the GLIAC tournament at a time to be announced.