Shao, Hagan leading men’s tennis by example

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The men's tennis team had extra motivation in its 7-0 win over Wright State Saturday — seniors Trent Hagan and Stephen Shao were playing in the final home match of their careers at Marquette.

Fittingly, Hagan and Shao set the tone with a win in No. 1 doubles and led the Golden Eagles to the crucial doubles point. Shao also dominated Jan Alafriz 6-3, 6-4 for the last home singles win of his career.

"Though tennis is a group effort, our two seniors obviously play a major role," coach Steve Rodecap said." They are very mature and have high standards for themselves."

Hagan and Shao have been Rodecap's pillars for most of the season. When the team has looked shaky or troubled, they have always been able to lean on the seniors for guidance. Backed by its seniors' strong play, Marquette has been nearly unbeatable at home. The Golden Eagles own an 11-1 record at Helfaer Tennis Stadium, with their only loss coming months ago to nationally-ranked Wisconsin.

Clearly, the boys always show up at home, but the match provided a little more incentive for them. They didn't want their senior leaders to end their careers with a bad taste in their mouths. Not when they had combined for a remarkable 145 total career wins, ranking them both in the top-five all-time at Marquette.

"Individual stuff is great, but all I care about is the team," Shao said. "The Big East Championship is obviously our goal. It is cliché, but we just need to take it one match at a time now."

Despite what Shao's focus is on, it's hard to ignore the individual accolades of him and Hagan. The duo's doubles victory gave them their 18th-career win together. But besides the great numbers, the pair has meant so much to this team and the program.

They have been the face of Marquette tennis, adorning every tennis brochure, program and Web site for the Golden Eagles. And with the win over Wright State on Senior Day, they now have a proper ending to their careers.

Well, almost.

After Marquette finishes a four-game road trip, they will journey to Tampa Bay, Fla. for the Big East Championships — the team's chance to prove just how motivated and talented they really are. For most of the season, Marquette performed well, but they were unable to secure a big win over an elite opponent. At the Championships they'll find plenty.

"I think we can compete with anyone," Rodecap said. "Louisville and South Florida are very good. Our rivalry with DePaul gets pretty heated. Notre Dame is obviously very good, they were the champions last year."

If the team can be motivated yet again by their inspirational seniors, they have the ability to take down anyone. Hagan's and Shao's careers are now one misstep away from ending. Win and advance, lose and go home. It's that simple.

"Right now we have all the right parts," Hagan said. "It's just the little things we need to improve on."

If Marquette can piece it together, a conference championship may be in reach.

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