Men’s tennis dominates IPFW

This year's edition of the men's tennis team proves that tennis is indeed a team sport. In the Golden Eagles' 7-0 dismantling of IPFW on Sunday afternoon, the team displayed the trademark teamwork that has helped them to an 8-3 record on the year.

"Tennis is a very lonely, individual sport, but we try to make it a team sport," coach Steve Rodecap said. "We preach that being a team is important and feeding off each other's energy levels is a key to success."

This season, Rodecap has been preaching to the choir. The team is tight-knit group that genuinely cares about one another's performances. On game day, it is common to hear the team yelling out encouragement and rally calls to one another from across the courts — sometimes during their own intense match-ups.

On Sunday, one Golden Eagle benefited from team unity more than anyone. Freshman Drake Kakar was locked into the only tough match of the day in No. 5 singles against Ryan Vogt when his teammates — fresh off their own victories to put Marquette up 6-0 — headed over to the far side of Helfaer Courts to cheer on Kakar and help will him to victory to complete the shutout of IPFW.

"I was a little tense to start the match," Kakar said, "but having my teammates there made me more relaxed. I never felt alone."

Before the rest of the Golden Eagles came to his rescue, Kakar had barely pulled out a first set win, 7-6 in a tiebreaker. But with his support system by his side, the freshman zoned in and won 6-3 in the second set.

Among those cheering on Kakar was fellow freshman Jonathan Schwerin, who notched a win in straight sets (6-0, 6-2) over Diego Arteaga.

"I thought I played pretty well today," Schwerin said. "I was on the offensive most of the match. When I'm out there, it feels good knowing my teammates want to win as much as I do."

Beyond the stellar play of the team's two youngest competitors, Marquette also profited from the strong play of their upperclassmen. Senior Trent Hagan defeated Hermann Kuschke 6-1, 6-0; Dusan Medan defeated Felipe Gama 6-1, 6-1; Niko Boulieris defeated Luis Maselli 6-3, 6-1; and Mark Rutherford defeated Rodrigo Tamashito 6-1, 6-2.

The 7-0 sweep improved Marquette's home record to 6-1 on the year. Despite the team's early success, a critical win over a ranked opponent has eluded them.

"I think we're closer than we've ever been to making that step," Rodecap said. "We have a tough road trip coming up where we can get that good win. It's going to be a test, but I think we're in the position."

The team has the talent and drive to succeed, so it appears it will only be a matter of time before the pieces fall in place. Rodecap said it isn't a matter of "if" they can pull off a big upset, but "when".

"I want to get over the hump so bad," Kakar said. "We all want it."

If they do, it will not be as individuals hitting a ball back and forth, but as a team.