By Danielle Nelson
*This article is posted on The Temple News website.
The tennis coaching staff made some adjustments before the fall season — new conditioning coaches and new courts, to name a few.
Coach Steve Mauro decided to place more of an emphasis on team fitness, sophomore Maros Januvka said
“At the beginning of the season, we did a lot of running,” Januvka said. “We did a 1.5-mile run and we had to do it under 9.5 minutes. Right now, we work in the gym to strengthen our core. We also do a lot of abs. So now we are fitter, so we last a lot longer in matches.”
With a few changes came results. The men’s tennis team ended the fall season with a total record of 50-37. This is a stark contrast from a year ago, when the team finished the fall season with an 16-33 record. The team played in five tournaments this fall: the Navy Invitational, Princeton Invitational, Penn Invitational, Lehigh Invitational and last weekend’s United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic Regional Championships at the University of Virginia.
The men were even able to play at home during the Penn Invitational because of a lack of available court space at University of Pennsylvania.
During the five weeks of competition, the tennis team faced several teams that the Owls were unsuccessful against last year.
“Individually and as a team we did really well this season,” junior Kristian Marquart said. “We beat a lot of teams that we lost to last year, like Duquesne, Lehigh and especially Navy.”
“We played really well during the Navy tournament,” Januvka said. “I don’t think we have ever won against Navy.”
Individually, players showed a lot of improvement compared to last season.
Sophomore Hicham Belkssir struggled during his first season at Temple, garnering a 1-6 singles record last fall. Belkssir had trouble getting acclaimed to a difference in the surface of the hard court, as opposed to the clay courts in his native country Morocco. Now, with a year under his belt, Belkssir was able to end the season with an 11-4 record, even starting off the season with a six-game winning streak.
Sophomores Nicolas Paulus, Sam Rundle and Santiago Canete all ended the season with winning records. All three have combined for a 26-13 record.
The newest addition to the team, freshman Vineet Naran, made a relatively smooth transition from high school to collegiate tennis while finishing with a 4-4 record.
“Everyone has been working hard and stepping it up,” Mauro said. “I am just happy how the guys came together as a team this season. I am proud of the way everyone has performed.”
As a result of the team’s fall season success, all the players were invited to the ITAs to compete against some of the country’s top players. Canete and Marquart were selected to compete in the singles main draw, while the others competed in the singles qualifying draw.
Canete won his first round match in a straight set and advanced to the second round, where he dropped his match.
Marquart, one of the team’s top players, was not as successful in his match because of an ongoing back injury that has been problematic for him this season. He was unable to compete in the Penn and Lehigh tournaments, which led up to the ITAs. As a result, Marquart had the worst singles record this season at 1-4.
“It is not the first time I have had this back injury,” Marquart said. “This also happened three years ago when I was playing a tournament in Austria. When it happened again, I realized that it was pretty much the same thing. Overall, I am happy with my performance in practice and matches. It is just unfortunate that the last two-and-a-half weeks I couldn’t play. That is why I couldn’t perform to my potential.”
Marquart said he’s confident that his back injury will not be a factor when the spring season rolls around.
“I have two months to take care of it, so it will not be an issue in the spring,” Marquart said.
Although the team will not have any more competitive matches this season, the Owls will still be practicing in preparation for their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference, which begins Jan. 17 at the VCU 4+1 Invite.
“We are pretty much going to be doing the same thing that we have been doing all season long,” Mauro said. “We have the same schedule. Our sport is the same all year long. There is not much of an off season.”
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