September 27, 2020
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first_imgThe Wisconsin men’s tennis team is not exactly resting up this next week in preparation for the Big Ten tournament April 27. Instead, the Badgers will travel to Columbus Sunday to take on Big Ten rival and tennis juggernaut, seventh-ranked Ohio State.The Buckeyes (20-1, 7-0 Big Ten) have lost only to No. 17-ranked Notre Dame this season. Contributing heavily to this success is the number one doubles team of Greg Wilson and Scott Green. The duo is 25-2 on the year, having beaten three top ten doubles teams en route to their number one ranking.The Badgers (10-10, 3-6) were cruising until they got to conference play, and have only won two of their last eight matches. Still, with their third Big Ten win, the Badgers solidified their place as the best UW men’s tennis team in years.But for first-year head coach Greg Van Emburgh, there is more work to be done.”You always consider it a successful season when you’ve done better than in the past four seasons,” Van Emburgh said. “But I had my sights set on finishing in the top four or five. If we’re going to finish in (eighth place in the Big Ten), then we’ve just got more work to do for next year.”Fortunately for UW, next year’s team will look quite similar to this current team. The current seven-man roster contains no seniors, one junior (co-captain Lachezar Kasarov), five sophomores, including co-captain Jeremy Sonkin, and one freshman.As a result, it appears the beginning of Van Emburgh’s tenure could not have come at a more opportune time, as none of the players had become overly comfortable with the system and daily regiment of former coach Pat Klingelhoets.Sonkin, the team MVP as a freshman and the recipient of three Big Ten Athlete of the Week awards, has been called “one of the top 50 players in the country” by Van Emburgh. Sonkin has posted an impressive 15-5 record this season as the team’s No. 1 singles player.Sonkin was put into a challenging spot as team captain along with Kasarov, but his young age did not hinder him into succeeding at the position, according to Van Emburgh.”I think they’ve done a great job with (being captains), and I know it hasn’t been easy for them to take that role,” Van Emburgh said. “When you’re similar in age, it’s tough to take that role as a captain and tell your own peer that he needs to step it up. They’re both real leaders.”While the team is young, that doesn’t mean that they’re naíve enough to overlook a very talented Ohio State team just a few days before the Big Ten tournament. While Van Emburgh and the team are aware of the caliber of team they are facing, they do not seem intimidated.”We’re not that far away,” Van Emburgh said. “And we know that we’re facing a top ten team, and we’re going to be able to compete with them.”The doubters need not look further than last Saturday, when the Badgers gave an inspired performance against fifth-ranked Illinois. Illinois very narrowly avoided the upset, winning 4-3.Included in Illinois’ victories was a hard-played match between Sonkin and Illinois’ Ryler DeHeart — the third-ranked player in the nation — which DeHeart won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. “That match absolutely gives us a confidence boost,” Van Emburgh said. “When you have a bunch of young kids similar in age striving for the same thing as an unranked team and you play a top ten team really close, it shows them that they’re right there, near the top.”With the Big Ten tournament just around the corner, on April 27, the Badgers know that they have some business to take care of in Columbus before they start looking further down the road.”We’re a team that needs to make sure we’re prepared and ready to play every match, no matter who it is against,” Van Emburgh said. “We’re in a stage where we need to prove how good we are every time we step onto the court.”last_img

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