2017 GVSU men's tennis preview

The Lakers return five of six starters from last year

By Brendan McMahon | 2/1/17 11:02pm

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GVL / Emily Frye Junior Zach Phillips against Davenport University on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.

by Emily Frye / Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Grand Valley State men’s tennis team is just days away from the beginning of the winter semester of competition. With a bitter taste still lingering from the shortcomings of last season, the Lakers are poised and ready to make 2017 one of the greatest in Laker history.

The Lakers finished the 2015-16 season with a 17-8 record. They finished 8-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference (GLIAC) and had a perfect record in home matches.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Junior Zach Phillips serves the ball during a match against Daemen College on Feb. 14, 2016.

Nearly half of the Lakers’ losses were at the mercy of rival Ferris State, including the GLIAC Championship and the NCAA Regional Tournament Finals.

“The losses to Ferris motivated our guys to work harder over the summer and the offseason and hopefully we can be a little bit better this year,” said GVSU head coach John Black.

While it is admirable just to compete in those high caliber matchups, the 2017 Lakers are preparing to make sure that this season does not yield the same result as last.

The Lakers are led by head coach John Black, who is returning or his 13th season. Black knows in order for the Lakers to be successful this season, they’re going to have to depend on the leadership and productivity of senior Zach Philips, junior Alex van de Steenoven, sophomore Sebastien Lescoulie and keen freshman Jack Geissler.

The Lakers are returning five out of six starters from last season, making them one of the most experienced teams in the GLIAC.

“We are very deep this year, there is not a whole lot of difference between our best player and our 7th or 8th player,” Black said. “At this point I’m not even sure who the best player is, everyone is so close.”

The Lakers lack that one dominant player to set the tone of a match, but Black believes anyone on his team could embrace that role throughout the season.

“We’re all pretty competitive,” Phillips said. "But one of the older guys, either myself, Jack (Heiniger) or Alex (van de Steenoven), is going to have to step up and play that spot and lead the way.”

Every member of the team seems to be motivated by the same common goal: winning the GLIAC.

“None of us have won conference championships and that’s something that we really want,” Phillips said. "We have been working hard for it and we’re trying to motivate others to work hard too.”

The last actual competition these Lakers have had dates back to the fall season when they competed in three different tournaments. Those, however, were primarily singles matches where players were placed in a large pool.

Far from the type of competing the Lakers will be doing in the spring season, it is still a good benchmark for players to see.

“It wasn’t our best turn out in the fall,” Phillips said. "But we put in some good work in the offseason and practiced hard so this season should be better than our fall.”

Needless to say, the Lakers have already circled the day on their schedule they can have a rematch against Ferris State, but they can not take any team on their schedule lightly.

The road to Altamonte Springs, FL, begins Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:30 a.m., at the Premier Athletic & Tennis Club when the Lakers take on Cornerstone University.

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