By Dalton Ray–
The 2015 season for the Louisville men’s tennis team saw one of the best classes in history. They produced multiple All-Conference players, two conference championships and three NCAA tournament appearances. Sebastian Stiefelmeyer was even ranked the nation’s top singles player.
Moving into 2016, the team will see many new faces. Seven new faces, to be exact. The freshman class holds six players, and the team added a transfer in junior Sean Donohue. The only returning players are senior captains Alex Gornet and Jeffery Brown and sophomore Courtney Lock.
While head coach Rex Ecarma admits it will be tough, he’s not altering expectations the program has set.
“I think we will get better as the year goes on,” Ecarma said. “This is the most inexperienced team I’ve had in 26 years. It’s going to be tricky, but the reason we’re playing on these double-headers early is to get the guys game experience.”
The most uncertain thing about this year is how will the underclassmen react to the sturdy ACC conference. Last year, the conference sent 10 teams to the NCAA tournament. The next closest was the PAC 12 with four.
“It’s definitely different not having that class around,” senior Jeffrey Brown said. “For me, I’m not playing on the forth or fifth court anymore because I’m on number two. Also, building camaraderie with the guys is big. For them heading into conference play the major task for them is to have the right mentality.”
On March 4, the Cardinals will host the University of Virginia—one of the top tennis programs in the nation—for one of the biggest games of the season.
Earlier, the Cardinals hosted a double-header against Troy and Dayton. They ended the day 2-0, and coach Ecarma was pleased with the effort.
“Troy is going for its third straight conference championship,” Ecarma said. “Dayton is one of the most improved teams in the Midwest. Troy took the doubles point against us and we really responded to come back and sweep in singles. Dayton had a chance to beat us. We just dug deep and won that match.”
The Cardinals won’t be back at home until Feb. 12, when Butler University comes to town.