The Marquette men’s tennis team had a rough start to its spring campaign, falling 7-0 at No. 25 Minnesota. The No. 1 doubles duo of sophomore Dan Mamalat and junior Jose Carlos Gutierrez Crowley picked up the Golden Eagles’ only victory in the doubles round, winning 8-5.
“We hadn’t performed as well as we thought we could in practice going in, but we used our experience and toughness to pull it out in that doubles match,” Mamalat said. “This meet didn’t really show it, but I feel like we are on a better pace than we were at this point last year.”
Coach Steve Rodecap said a lack of aggression made tackling the Golden Gophers harder than it needed to be, and barring a few good individual performances, he felt the team severely underperformed overall.
“I feel like we really played on our heels against Minnesota, and they were pushing us back, taking control of the points and controlling the matches earlier than we were,” Rodecap said. “We were fighting really hard and competing really well, but I feel like we were always kind of getting pushed around, and I think we need to do a better job holding our ground.”
Freshmen nerves, Rodecap said, also played a part in Marquette’s struggles as the Baseline Tennis Center proved a tougher venue to win at than anticipated.
“We put two freshmen at No. 3 doubles, and I think they were a little overwhelmed by the environment, Rodecap said. “There was a good crowd there, and they didn’t respond very well to that.”
Among the highlights of the Golden Eagles’ lidlifter, Rodecap said the return of Crowley after missing a lot of fall action with back problems, gave the team a bit of a boost. Playing at No. 2 singles, Crowley battled well against Minnesota’s Leandro Toledo taking the first set 6-3, but surrendered a close second set 7-6 before falling in the tiebreaker, 10-7.
“I thought it was a really good performance for him,” Rodecap said. “He hadn’t been playing very well, and I didn’t really know what to expect from him going in. He has a really big heart and loves to compete and he showed that to us in doubles and singles, and if he can stay healthy, I think he can have a great year for us.”
Freshman Vukasin Teofanovic, playing No. 3 singles, also stood out in a big way to Rodecap, as the Serbia native forced three sets against Minnesota’s Rok Bonin despite losing 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. His performance, Rodecap said, represented a need for the team to focus from the bottom up on development to improve on depth, an area the Minnesota held a clear advantage.
“We have a really good freshman in Vukasin,” Rodecap said. “He had a good showing in doubles and singles, and I feel like the more matches he gets under his belt the better he’s going to get. The bottom of our lineup is going to have to be really big for us because that’s where I think our strength needs to be by the end of the year.”
Teofanovic echoed his coach’s concerns with the overall demeanor of the team and its inability to get out to fast starts.
“I think everyone went into their matches with a little too much respect for our opponents,” Teofanovic said. “Everybody let them take the lead and control the match from the beginning, and we were always trying to get the score back in our favor.”