New tennis players lead the way to a rising tennis program

By Mike Romor

DeKALB | NIU’s men’s tennis program has been on the rise over the past few years. Leading the way for NIU over the last two seasons is sophomore Maksym Bartiuk.

After the Ukraine native finished his freshman year with a 13-6 record at first singles, Bartiuk was named the MAC Newcomer of the Year and gained a spot on the All-MAC First Team.

While splitting time with freshman Axel Lagerlof at first singles this season, Bartiuk ended the regular season with a 17-9 record, going 12-7 at the top spot in the lineup.

Entering the MAC tournament winning four of his last five matches, Bartiuk appears to be on track to achieving his goal of winning a MAC Championship.

Bartiuk started playing tennis when he was five years old. When he was younger, he would tag along with his brother and hit around. He soon recognized his future with the sport could be bright.

Acknowledging that he always thought he would go far with tennis, he is not too surprised at where he is now.

“I always knew I would play tennis seriously,” Bartiuk said. “My brother was like 15 years old and he was good, so my parents wanted me to play tennis, too. So then I knew I would play tennis for a long time.”

NIU head coach Patrick Fisher is more than pleased with the contributions Bartiuk has made to the program since his arrival.

“He’s a great player; he was recruited by some high-level schools,” Fisher said. “Oklahoma State was one of them, and they’re a top 20 program, so I knew that he was a good player, but he’s been even better than expected. He does all the little things for us. He doesn’t take practice off. He works out at a high level. He is a really positive guy, and he gives a lot of support to all the guys on the team.”

Fisher considers Bartiuk to be the leader of the team. Bartiuk had never played on a team until he came to NIU, showing the dedication he has to not only improving his own performance, but for his teammates as well.

Bartiuk feels the transition to American culture, and being part of a team rather than being an individual, was a bit of a challenge.

“At first it was weird, but now it’s fun being with all the people on the team,” Bartiuk said. “When I first came here, it was different. I live in an apartment now so it’s okay, but the dorms were horrible.”

Bartiuk and the Huskies will begin the MAC Championships on Thursday when they take on Ball State at 2 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Mich.