By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University men’s tennis team (12-5) will open up Horizon League play this weekend with back-to-back matches on March 24 and 25.
YSU has had a hot start to the 2017 season. It has won seven of their last eight matches while taking down teams like University of Dayton and Xavier University in convincing fashion. YSU senior Mitch Maroscher said that there were many factors to the team’s success as of late.
“It’s been the high quality training and recruiting good players,” Maroscher said. “Everyone gets along on the team and we have positive energy. We pump each other up and are there for each other.”
Maroscher is undoubtedly one of the leaders for the Penguins as he is the only senior on the team this season. Along with being the only senior, this is Maroscher’s first year at YSU after transferring from Grand Canyon University.
“It’s a little different being a senior at a new school,” Maroscher said. “I had some experience playing already so I was able to give the guys some good energy and help motivate them so far.”
Maroscher also said that YSU head coach Mickael Sopel has helped him a lot this season with being the only player on the team from the United States.
“That is a very unusual and interesting situation for him,” Sopel said. “The work he has done for this team is unbelievable. Mitch is a great tennis player and is already a number one player. I’ve never had someone who is as committed and works as hard as Mitch.”
Sopel is impressed with his team’s performance during the beginning of the season and believes that the Penguins this year are some of the hardest-working that he has ever coached.
“This is the most talented team I’ve had and the best team tennis-wise that I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Sopel said. “It is also the best group of people I have had since I’ve been coaching. It has been a great adventure so far and I cross my fingers that this gets going all the way. These guys work as hard as they can and they are committed.”
Sopel also said that the team is focused on bringing YSU its first Horizon League championship for men’s tennis.
The fact that there is only one senior on the team might be a challenge for this season but Sopel is very optimistic about the future of YSU’s tennis program.
“It’s a great prospect having this dynamic going forward,” Sopel said. “Having a group of such young guys is very exciting. We have such a good base and it is exciting to look at the future and see what we can accomplish in the next few years. We will build on it and keep getting better.”
The Penguins will face one of the hottest teams in the country on Saturday. Valparaiso University (14-1, 1-0 in Horizon League) has won its last 13 matches with the only loss of the season coming from Big Ten opponent the University of Wisconsin. Valpo has already defeated the University of Illinois at Chicago this season, the team YSU will play on March 25.
UIC (5-6, 0-1 HL) had a string of three straight losses in February but have gained momentum in March. The Flames will enter the March 25 match coming off of a two-match winning streak.
The match against Valpo will begin at 3:00 p.m. on March 24 while the match on March 25 against UIC will start at 9:00 a.m.
Both matches will take place at the Boardman Tennis Center.