The Owls are getting ready to welcome back one of their biggest assets – co-captain Kristian Marquart.
The junior missed most of the fall semester, suffering from an injured shoulder, but was expected to return at some point during the year.
Last season, the team faced a similar storyline. Men’s tennis captain Kacper Rams missed all of the team’s fall 2012 campaign but was counting on returning during the spring. Instead, Rams missed nearly the entire spring season, as the injury lingered and he never won a match.
In Marquart’s situation, that scenario appears to be unlikely.
Marquart had an eventful winter break in his native country, Germany, where he spent time rehabilitating from his shoulder injury and received medical treatment. Marquart has come back to North Broad healthy and ready to take on the spring season.
“There were many exercises after finding the problem with the shoulder to make the muscles strong and ensure I could continue to play,” Marquart said. “They did a really good job in Germany, and I am confident that I will be able to play through the whole season.”
Coach Steve Mauro said his co-captain is prepared to return after his injury.
“He’s been getting slowly acclimated back into playing full matches and practices,” Mauro said. “It appears his shoulder is fully healed. It only really bothers him when he serves. He’s up for the challenge.”
With a roster of seven underclassmen, Marquart is one of only two upperclassmen on the roster.
“I think I have a little bit more maturity and experience in my history, which I can use to motivate the guys and be the authority on the team,” Marquart said. “They also feel better having someone they know has been through the conference matches and tough schedule.”
“I just remember myself starting as a freshmen and I was in the position that most of the other guys were,” Marquart added. “I realized how much I developed in these few years, and now I’m the one trying to help all the others play, and I’m very proud and I hope the guys can learn something.”
Mauro said that part of the challenge for Marquart, in addition to his health, will be taking on a young roster that looks to him to learn.
However, Mauro said there’s a reason why he picked Marquart as one of his captains.
“He’s very mature,” Mauro said. “His work ethic sets him apart from the other guys, he’s very coachable, and a good communicator.”
Sophomore Hicham Belkssir said Marquart keeps an even keel and remains positive, which is one of his stronger leadership characteristics as a co-captain.
“He’s always cheering for us and he’s behind us,” Belkssir said. “He always remains positive, even if he is losing.”
The other co-captain on the team is the only other junior on the roster, Hernan Vasconez. Marquart pointed to the duo’s good chemistry as one of the things he believes will help younger players come into their own, much like he and Vasconez have.
“We know that we’re both captains and we both have responsibility,” Marquart said. “We don’t argue about things. We work well together. There’s no doubt about that.”
Led by these two juniors, the tennis team expects growing pains but has confidence about where it will end up. They opened the season earlier this month with losses to Richmond and James Madison.
“They kind of know what they have to do,” Mauro said. “I think we might struggle early on, but as the season progresses, I’m very optimistic about our team. Kristian brings a lot of experience. He knows what it takes to win. I think his energy on the court will only help motivate other players.”
With a healthy Marquart back in the mix, the tennis team expects to grow into a winning team this spring and turn the corner as the young roster begins to develop and mature.
“It was a little bit unfortunate, but I have to say that we learned a lot,” Marquart said. “The fall season made us realize what we have to work on and what our weaknesses are. It’s not all bad, but we know what we have to work on and we’re going to be fine.”
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.