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Mens’ Tennis preview: Last year’s freshmen becoming new core

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Verdu was an All-BIG EAST first-team member last season.

Verdu was an All-BIG EAST first-team member last season.

Photo by Infographic by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Infographic by Brian Georgeson

Verdu was an All-BIG EAST first-team member last season.

Coach: Steve Rodecap (14th season)

2015 results: 14-10, BIG EAST Tournament Runners-up

Key Departures: Daniel Fernandez, Gleb Sklyr

Players to watch: Alvaro Verdu, Greg Anderson

Overview: Getting over the hump has been a major theme in the latter half of Coach Rodecap’s career at Marquette, and this year is no different.

After two seasons ending at the hand of St. John’s in the BIG EAST Tournament championship match— and two semi-finals appearances before that— the Golden Eagles again enter the season with hopes of finally securing a BIG EAST victory and entry into the NCAA tournament.

“It all starts with the BIG EAST. We always want to put ourselves in a position to win a championship for the program and the entire department,” Rodecap said.”That’s always going to be our goal going into every season.”

As usual, Rodecap looks to use the individual fall invite schedule to season his players and develop team chemistry. With four new freshman, this lower-stakes period will be key to acclimating them to collegiate competition.

“The fall is pretty developmental. We’re still trying to make changes in guys’ games, and theres a little more leeway to do that in the individual tournaments,” Rodecap said. “For these four new guys to get out there and get experience in a collegiate event goes a long way in building the team and building chemistry.”

The period is also crucial for configuring the roster, something Rodecap emphasizes is far from set in stone.

The strength of successful tennis programs is often found in having skill across all spots on the roster, and Rodecap sees the top doubles and single slots as available to anyone on the team.

“Playing time is going to be a little harder to come by this year, and that competitive environment  on a daily basis is going to be very important in deciding which guys get in there,” Rodecap said. “It’s a process and it will take some time to figure out.”

Key Players: As freshmen last year, Alvaro Verdu and Greg Anderson played key roles in pushing the team to a BIG EAST Championship appearance.

Anderson transferred to Marquette from TCU second semester last year, and quickly became a contributor. He finished the season with a 13-5 singles record, helping propel the team into conference contenders.

Meanwhile, Verdu proved his value, locking down the second singles position, finishing the season with an overall 17-11 record and securing a place on the All-BIG EAST First Team.

“Al (Verdu) and Greg (Anderson) had exceptional freshman years. The two had a huge impact on our team last year. It takes everyone for a team to be successful, but those two guys will definitely be key to that,” Rodecap said.

Three seniors— Nick Dykema, Mackenzie Stearns and Kristiyan Trukov— look to add stability and leadership on the roster as well.

“(The seniors) have all been very stable contributors for us. It’s all going to start with those guys,” Rodecap said.

Key Dates: The Men’s Tennis season kicks off Sept. 16 with the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, and continues through the fall with individual play is a series of meets, invitationals, and tournaments. Head-to-head match play begins in January.

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