Men’s tennis in midst of culture change

By Darwin Minnis

The addition of head coach Patrick Fisher four seasons ago and the new talent he’s brought in have transformed men’s tennis from a below -.500 team during his first two seasons to a championship contender.

When Fisher took over the program in 2009, the Huskies were barely a team, initially consisting of two players; now, they are receiving national recognition and competing again for a MAC Championship.

“The biggest thing I’ve preached is to not be a team of talkers, be a team of doers,” Fisher said. “Do it, don’t talk about it.”

This mentality is what Fisher said he credits most for the culture change of the tennis team from a last-place team to a regularly competitive team.

In 2009, Fisher took over a program that was hardly a team. With two players on the roster, he started recruiting immediately. He filled the roster, but the team played with a walk-on who went 1-22.

The team finished 10-13. While not the ideal season, Fisher kept his head up.

“You can’t achieve anything being negative,” Fisher said. “We kept that mentality, just stayed positive and started from the ground up.”

During the offseason, Fisher recruited with an emphasis on character, playing a high level and the players’ drive to be great. Selling a 10-13 season was tough, but he managed to get some talent, including current senior Axel Lagerlof.

“They sold me on a school that looked after its student-athletes and allowed us to succeed in sports and academics,” Lagerlof said. “Coach explained his goals and I wanted them as well.”

The 2010-11 season started with high hopes, but it was plagued with injuries. They finished 11-16, but change was in the air.

The 2011-12 season, Fishers’ third, is when they took off. The Huskies finished 21-7, won the regular season championship and made it to the MAC semifinals before losing by a point. Earlier in the season, they beat Western Michigan and Ball State, conference rivals, for the first time in the same season since 1974. Their success continued next season.

The 2012-13 season was the best yet, finishing 15-8 and ranked top 10 in the Midwest, the second-toughest region in the nation, for the first time ever. They were named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-Academic team. In the MAC Tournament, they lost in the finals, finishing one point shy of a NCAA Tournament berth.

This season, the Huskies are 10-3, all three losses came against top-75 teams, and they have their first ranked doubles team in 10 years. Fisher said the team is hoping for a MAC Championship.

In the past four seasons, men’s tennis team has been to two MAC Tournaments and a MAC Finals. They earned a regular season championship and an ITA All-Academic Award, beat conference rivals for the first time in 40 years, and had ranked players for the first time in 10 years. While they have accomplished a lot, they don’t plan on stopping.

“Coach has gotten great new recruits,” Lagerlof said. “There should be a very good future for them.”