Men’s tennis eager for conference play

By Darwin Minnis

After an impressive 13-5 start to the season, men’s tennis is headed into conference play.

The Huskies, who are undefeated at home on the season, will play four conference opponents over the next four weeks starting with Western Michigan Saturday. Three of the conference matches will be played at home for the Huskies.

While the Huskies’ success in non-conference play looks good record-wise, it doesn’t help them reach their ultimate goal: the NCAA Tournament. Conference play determines entry for the tournament. Head coach Patrick Fisher is putting that knowledge into his team’s heads.

“We really want to win not only the regular season, but also the MAC Championship and get into the NCAA Tournament,” Fisher said. “These are all grudge matches. They are all tough, all intense. They have more meaning emotionally, physically and mentally.”

Of the MAC teams, NIU has the best overall winning percentage at .722, followed by Buffalo (9-5) with a .643. The Huskies have been using their nonconference schedule to prepare them for the MAC teams they’ll face.

“Everything up to this point is to prepare for conference play, to have your team prepared for this time of year,” Fisher said.

Even close games against big-name schools, a nationally ranked doubles team, a perfect 11-0 home record and 13 wins on the season are not enough for Fisher.

“That will be determined on how well we do,” Fisher said. “Every coach will say that nonconference has prepared their team for conference play. But, for us, these next few weeks will determine if our hard work pays off.”

Despite having few facilities, with the exception of a few outdoor courts which for most of the season can’t be used due to weather, NIU has continued to have success.

“We have the worst facilities in the league,” Fisher said. “We do a lot with a little. Some places use that as an excuse, but we don’t. That’s not going to hold us back.”