Men’s tennis enjoying solid start

By Zac Camacho

Excellent play from the two lone underclassmen on the team and incredible leadership from the seniors has been key for the men’s tennis team picking up on its success from the 2016-17 season.

Since arriving in DeKalb nine years ago, Head Coach Patrick Fisher has sustained a winning culture in the regular season year after year.

“Our guys have done a really good job holding each other accountable to a certain standard,” Fisher said.

NIU has finished with a winning record for the past six seasons and has captured the Mid-American Conference Regular Season Championship title three times during that period.

Halfway through the season, Western Michigan University leads the MAC with eleven wins, followed by Ball State University (8-2) and NIU (9-4).

Redshirt freshman Kristopher Ortega and freshman Victor Spolidorio have had a vigorous impact on the team this year.

“They’ve been a really good asset so far,” said senior Louis-Philippe Hamel. “Kris has been playing some really good tennis lately. [At the moment] Victor is injured, but these two guys have been some great assets for us. Also, they put a lot of good work in practice, which makes our jobs as seniors easier.”

At the halfway point of the season, Ortega leads the team with eight wins. He started the season at the No. 4 and excellent play kept him moving up the flight board to the No. 1 slot.

Although Spolidorio is sidelined with a back injury, he has been playing at a very high level with a 5-1 record. The majority of his wins came at No. 6 as he hasn’t let his matches go further than the second set in any of his wins.

The leadership coming from the group of seniors this year has been what stands out the most in the Huskies’ success this season.

“I think our senior leadership has been great,” Fisher said. “Louis, Tom [Hjertonsson] and Georg [Lundkvist] have really been great leaders.”

Eric Marbach is another senior who has stepped up big this year. Marbach recently suffered a back injury but said he hopes to be back in the next week. Before his injury, Marbach held down the No. 1 position, going 5-2.

The four seniors are a combined 23-9 in singles matches and are leading by example for the rest of the team.

“[They’re] great role models on and off the court,” Ortega said. “Whether it’s putting more hours on the court or in the gym.”

The Huskies have had a difficult past few years in the MAC tournament. NIU has been eliminated by Buffalo University for the past three consecutive seasons. With three weeks until conference play starts, the Huskies are out to prove they can have success beyond the regular season.

“We’ve got really good potential this year,” Ortega said. “I think we just need to play like we practice, and I think we will be good.”

The Huskies will face off against Creighton University 12 p.m. Friday at the Hanscom Tennis Courts in Omaha, Nebraska.