Men’s tennis opens season Saturday

Ten young men come together on the deep blue courts of the Helfaer Recreation Center. They arrive separately, one by one, until the ocean colored surface is swimming with activity.

Tennis is an individual sport — just a man on a court, alone except for the racket in his hand and the sweat dripping from his face.

"In my time here, this is the closest group of guys I've coached," coach Steve Rodecapsaid. "It is very unique for a team to be so unselfish in an individual sport, but this a very unique team."

Rodecap stressed that success in this upcoming season, which kicks off this Saturday, will be because of a total team effort and not just one or two stars. The cliche; "there is no 'I' in team" is the mantra of these Golden Eagles.

"We do have some great senior leaders in Stephen Shao and Trent Hagan, but everyone on this team is capable of contributing," Rodecap said.

"This team is so close and we're all great friends," Shao said, "It's awesome that everyone picks each other up and roots for each other. It makes the tough practices much easier."

The team has high expectations for the new season, setting its sights on a possible Big East Championship. Not surprisingly, the goals for the season revolve around team success and not personal achievements.

"It's my senior year and all I care about is winning the Big East Championship," Shao said. "I would sacrifice individual accolades and awards for a team trophy."

This Saturday the Golden Eagles will begin their quest against Illinois-Chicago and IUPUI. Getting off to a good start is vital in order to set the pace for the long season ahead.

"This weekend is big for us," Rodecap said. "The Big East is our ultimate goal, but right now we're focused on Saturday and setting the tone for the year."

Notre Dame, Louisville and Southern Florida look to be major challenges this season. Rodecap gave credit to Notre Dame, the defending conference champs, by saying it was "very good and the team to beat," but said he believes his team can hold its own with anyone.

"Our guys are ready, they're in great shape," Rodecap said. "We came from break and started two-a-days, and everyone looks good. Our team looks good.

"We want to continue to get better every week, and hopefully we'll be there at the end of the year when the Big East Tournament comes around. This team is something special, and this year is going to be special."