3 freshmen contributing to Owls’ success this season

Three freshmen have totaled 27 wins in singles this year.

Coach Steve Mauro said doubles partners Florian Mayer and Uladzimir Dorash have clicked this season.

After experimenting with different doubles pairings, the freshmen duo have found success playing with each other.

Mayer and Dorash have won nine of their 11 matches as a tandem.

“Florian’s strong at the net and Uladzimir is good at setting him up,” Mauro said. “We figured that would be a good combination.”

The two, along with freshman Artem Kapshuk, have been key to the Owls 12-3 start this season.

The trio has combined for 27 singles wins in 35 total matches, which accounts for 44 percent of the team’s singles victories.

“It’s one of the best group of freshmen that we’ve brought in, in a number of years,” Mauro said. “What I really like about these three freshmen is their work ethic. They really love playing tennis and come to work every day in practice. I’m really lucky that we have them.”

Kapshuk leads the team with a 11-1 singles record, the lone Owl to total double-digit victories. The freshman also has a 7-4 overall doubles record with three different partners.

“I think he just needs to work on a couple aspects of his game to be a top player,” Mauro said. “But there’s no reason to why he couldn’t be a Top 50 player in the country.”

Kapshuk, who is from Kiev, Ukraine, said Mauro has improved his game since arriving at Temple this year.

“[Mauro] saw from the beginning that I need to come in more to the ball and be more aggressive,” Kapshuk said. “This is what really improved. So now I not only stay far behind the baseline, I’m also coming into the ball and finishing the point.”

Before losing 6-1, 6-1 to Southern Methodist redshirt sophomore Samm Butler on March 2, Kapshuk was on an eight-game singles winning streak, which began on Jan. 21 in a 7-0 shutout against La Salle.

With 11 matches left on the schedule, Kapshuk has the opportunity to be the fourth  Owl to total 20 or more singles wins in a season since 2008-09. Filip Rams and Dmitry Vizhunov both won 20 or more matches in 2008-09 and 2010-11. Rams won 23 games both years. Hicham Belkssir was the last Owl to win 20 matches in the 2013-14 season.

In doubles, Mayer and Dorash are 9-2 and are the lone pair to total more than five wins. Before losing matches to Southern Methodist and Abilene Christian by a combined score of 12-6, the two freshmen were 8-0 in doubles play.

“We played two really strong teams in Texas and the score does not really represent the reality. … All of these matches were really, really close,” Dorash said. “So we’re going to work hard and see what happens.”

The Owls are 6-0 at home this season and with seven of the team’s last 11 matches coming at home,  Mauro said his team has an opportunity to finish the year strong against top opponents after dropping two games in a row.

“It was just unfortunate it didn’t go our way when we went out to Texas,” Mauro said. “But it’s still a long season and we’ll knock off some top ranked teams.”

Tom Ignudo can be reached at thomas.ignudo@temple.edu or on Twitter @Ignudo5.

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