After winning the Philadelphia City 6 Championship in the fall, the men’s tennis team had even loftier goals for the spring.
However, the Owls haven’t been able to get the ball rolling and get on a streak to start the spring season.
With a 7-0 win against Monmouth last Friday afternoon at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center, the Owls improved to 5-6 as they split for spring break.
While the record looks average and aspirations are high for an Atlantic Ten Conference run after besting the rest of the city in the fall, coach Steve Mauro is encouraged with his team’s start.
“The season is going well,” he said. “We’ve been in some close matches, and we’ve lost some close matches with ranked teams.”
This spring, the Owls have fallen to No. 32 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 64 William & Mary and No. 74 Old Dominion.
Despite losing to those three ranked teams by a combined 16-2 score, Mauro pointed out that his team has been working hard and has a positive outlook after battling some of the top teams in the nation.
“The matches were closer than the score indicated,” he said.
Mauro’s been doing it with a roster that starts three freshmen: Mansur Gishkaev, Filip Rams and Dmitry Vizhunov.
Gishkaev, from Moscow, was living in Florida for the past four years before coming to Philadelphia. He was academically ineligible last semester but has started this semester with a 6-5 record.
Vizhunov, who at age 14 was ranked No. 1 in Russia, has had more experience than his fellow countrymen. Vizhunov, who was named A-10 Rookie of the Week two weeks ago, has 10 wins with 10 losses over both semesters.
While Vizhunov has an award, the Polish freshman Rams already has two A-10 Rookie of the Week honors. With a 6-2, 6-3 win Friday afternoon, Rams improved to a team-best 14th victory.
“I’m not worried about the youth,” Mauro said. “They are getting better and better and more acclimated to college tennis.”
The positivity and optimism continued from the Owls’ coach, as he thinks better things are ahead for his young squad.
“All are playing very well,” he said. “All of them are stepping up, which is great, and they are only going to get better throughout the season.”
Mauro is hoping the time off will give his team some time to rest, recharge and come back focused on making a run in the conference.
“We’re getting there,” Mauro said. “As long as my team is healthy, we can make a run at the A-10s.”
The Owls return to the court in two weeks when they travel to Xavier to begin their final 11-game stretch run. The next day, they stay in Ohio to battle Dayton. They don’t return to the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center until March 27 for a match with UC Riverside.
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.
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