By Gabi Duncan–
The University of Louisville men’s tennis program has had some of the best results in the country in the past four years. They have proven themselves to be the top team in the Big East, winning the championship back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. They have had three NCAA Sweet 16 Appearances. They have also been consistently ranked as one of the top 30 teams in the country, with the highest ranking in school history of 10.
Most of these stellar accomplishments were achieved with the help of the recent graduating class: Austen Childs, Simon Childs, Viktor Maksimcuk and Alejandro Calligari. Dubbed the Fabulous Four by head coach Rex Ecarma, these four men helped U of L gain national recognition for tennis. Now that the Fabulous Four’s careers are finished, the team must continue on its quest for greatness.
Ecarma believes his team will remain on the right path. The current senior class, called the Fire Department, has the reins now and is more than prepared to lead.
“They’re going to be our mental leaders and keep everybody mentally tough because they do have more experience than anyone else,” said Ecarma. “Hopefully they become the leaders I think that they can be, on and off the court, and leave a legacy that people will remember for a very long time.”
The Fire Department’s leadership will be crucial this season since they have six freshmen, recruited to replace the Fab Four and help the team remain at an elite level.
“I’ve really loved training with the guys. It’s a lot of fun,” said freshman Michael Lippens. “I’m excited for season and hope to remain undefeated, as a team and individually, at home.”
The freshman class, named the New Generation by Ecarma, was ranked as the No. 16 recruiting class in the country and has a lot of talent to contribute.
“All of them are pretty hungry to prove something and I think they’re going to help the team both in singles and doubles because they’re going to fight for every match,” said senior, Sumit Gupta.
Since they are a relatively young team, their success this season will rest on their determination and resiliency. But, they have put in the time and effort that is necessary to become great.
“This team is the hardest working team that I’ve ever coached in 22 years,” said Ecarma. “They’ve just set such a standard for work ethic and commitment to getting better.”
There is no doubt that men’s tennis is primed and ready to prove themselves again as one of the best in the country. But it is especially bittersweet for the seniors, who will be hanging up their rackets at the end of the season.
“I want to win every match I play and I want to give it my best and hopefully my senior can walk away with another Big East championship and Sweet 16 NCAA appearance,” said Gupta.
The Cards are currently 2-0 with wins over Xavier and Austin Peay.