Men’s tennis long on talent, short on results

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Teamwork, preparation and passion have been the things coach Steve Rodecap has stressed all season long. His team — fueled by the talent of junior Dusan Medan and the experience of senior Trent Hagan — responded by posting a 17-9 record and protecting its home court like it was in an Under Armor commercial.

Incidentally, the team that prided itself on fundamentals and team unity ended with a sixth-place finish at the Big East Championships, because it forgot a simple age-old cliché; — mind over matter.

"We have the talent to compete with anyone, and we've said that all year," Medan said. "But we really struggled with pressure as a team, and every time we faced a ranked opponent we didn't show up mentally."

Mental toughness proved to be the Achilles heel of an otherwise very strong Marquette team. Medan was brilliant for most of the year, racking up a 31-9 record in singles play and ending the season on an 11-match winning streak.

But what stood out about the team the most was its overall success as a collective unit.

"In tennis you need good efforts from everyone, and that's why we had success all year," Rodecap said. "At the Big East Championships we played well in doubles, but unfortunately we struggled in singles, and that's why we lost to DePaul."

Marquette's narrow loss to the Blue Demons in the opening round of the tournament also closed the book on two of the program's most storied players — Hagan and fellow senior Stephen Shao. The two both rank among the school leaders in singles wins, and they have left an undeniable impression on the remaining members of team.

"Trent and Stephen both did a great job leading the team," Medan said. "It's going to be hard to replace them."

Rodecap remarked on how profound Hagan's improvement was from freshman to senior year. As he grew in age, he also grew significantly as a player and more importantly, as a person.

"I can't tell you how great my experience at Marquette was," Hagan said. "I've come a long way, and not just in tennis. Coaches Rodecap and Martinez have been great role models and have helped me so much. This program is spectacular."

With the departure of two of the team's most reliable and hardened players, some glaring holes and questions must be addressed for next year's season.

Rodecap's position as the team's influential and motivating force is unquestioned. The young coach has improved the team's record every year like clockwork until this season's minor hiccup.

But what next season's Golden Eagles really need is a player to carry the burden of the program's past failures and help the team overcome the final hurdle in Rodecap's brief tenure — beating an elite team. Without question, that responsibility will pass onto Medan.

"I think myself, as well as Mark Rutherford and Niko Boulieris, are ready to step up," Medan said. "We also have a lot of freshmen who played well this year who will be big factors next year.

"The main thing will be believing more that we can win the big matches."

While the team did deliver an impressive regular season en route a No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, this season will ultimately be summed up by the mental mishaps and lack of energy that knocked the Golden Eagles down to sixth-place. In the end, it was their inability to back up their talent with production.

"I think that sums up our year pretty well," Rodecap said. "No matter how talented you are and no matter what seed you are, you need to go out and prove yourself."

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