With two losses, the season started off in a hole for the Youngstown State University men’s tennis team. However, the Penguins hope to dig themselves out sooner rather than later.
Last season, the team went 9-11. Mark Klysner, head men’s tennis coach, said since it is early in the season, he doesn’t feel the need to worry about the team’s losses at this point.
“The guys know it takes a few matches to get matched up properly,” he said.
Klysner said he acknowledges that his team consists of an older group — and one that’s hungry for a conference title.
“On the team currently, we have one senior and five juniors, so they know what it takes to win,” he said.
Despite having an older team, Klysner said he feels members’ experience will help, primarily because their goal to win a title before graduating is huge.
“You want to win a conference title, and you have four years to do so,” Klysner said. “They realize that, and it gives us a high level of energy to play with.”
Mickael Sopel, the first-year assistant men’s tennis coach, said he’s impressed with what Klysner has done as head coach.
“You come to YSU to have a chance to win. We want to make recruits understand what the team is about. There needs to be cohesion between coaches and teammates,” Sopel said. “Mark really did a good job recruiting, researching and finding out who these players are. He’s done a great job taking this team to the next level.”
Since coming to YSU, Sopel has not only been impressed with Klysner’s work, but with the players and their determination.
“Guys ask me, ‘What do I need to do to get better?’ Honestly, they’re getting better every day,” Sopel said.
Klysner said he hopes that the upperclassmen’s hunger for a title can help teach the younger players how to reach those same goals.
“Our guys are pretty experienced,” he said. “They have all played at a high level before, so they are all well aware of what needs done.”
Klysner said the mental aspect of the game is huge for his players, adding that the team’s skills have improved from last year.
Junior Zeeshan Ismail said he hopes to achieve his goal: ending the season with a positive record and a conference title.
“I’m stronger and faster than last year. I’m trying to stay focused and mentally strong,” he said.
Ismail said he’s been doing a lot of extra work, like running and practicing his shots against a wall. Last season, he recorded a 17-10 record and was 9-2 during the fall tournament.
Aside from his personal goals, Ismail also has an idea that could help both the men’s and women’s teams.
“It would be nice to have indoor tennis courts to get more court time,” he said. “If we had the availability of training time on campus, being able to train all the time, it would boost our game.”