Despite completing his first fall season at Temple with a 3-6 singles record, sophomore Kristian Marquart is not modest about his performance for the past few months.
“I played my best season ever, to be honest,” Marquart said. “I think that I made good progress from August until now.”
“[Marquart] is probably playing his best tennis that I’ve seen,” coach Steve Mauro said. “I think the fall season went, overall, pretty well.”
The Owls finished the season with a total record of 18-37. They played in three official tournaments: the Navy Blue Invite in Annapolis, Md., and the Penn Invitational in Philadelphia in September, and last weekend’s United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic Regional Championship in Charlottesville, Va.
Marquart said there was definite improvement among the whole team this season.
“We played some good teams, some good opponents,” Marquart said. “Overall you could see the progress from the first tournament we played at Navy to the ITAs.”
Mauro said Marquart wasn’t the only player who impressed him. He said sophomore Hernan Vasconez is playing his best tennis and freshman Nicolas Paulus is becoming a reliable player.
Vasconez finished the season with a 3-5 singles record. Paulus, who went 2-4 in singles matches, was hampered by a neck injury at the ITAs.
Senior Kacper Rams was also battling an injury this past weekend. Mauro said he was experiencing a lot of muscle pain in his right arm. Rams, who went 3-3 in singles matches, said he played the best he could given the circumstances.
“I couldn’t really perform in a way I was really expecting to perform,” Rams said. “Overall it was good except those injuries. I’m kind of happy with the way I played at practice.”
Rams does not think the injury will bother him in the spring.
“I will take a couple weeks off. It should get better in time,” Rams said.” Everything should be fine starting in the spring season.”
“It just needs some time to rest,” Mauro said. “With the proper rehab he should be fine.”
Freshman Hicham Belkssir had the worst singles record of any player, going 1-7. Mauro said his record is not indicative of his skills.
“[Belkssir] needs to keep working hard,” Mauro said. “He’s very talented.”
The sixth member of the team, freshman Maros Januvka, did not compete at the ITAs. Mauro said Januvka is still adapting to a new style of play.
“[Januvka] is talented, and we’re changing his game style a little bit,” Mauro said. “Once he is up to this new system that we’re teaching him, I think he’ll definitely be a contributor to the team.”
Mauro also said that there will be some new additions to the team in January.
“They’re not signed yet,” Mauro said. “They haven’t been officially accepted yet, so we’re waiting until they do that [to announce their names].”
Marquart said the team is getting along with each other very well.
“The more time we’ve spent together, the more we’ve become friends,” Marquart said. “It’s better than ever before. This makes us stronger.”
Rams is the only upperclassman on the team and has, by far, the most experience. He said he tries his best to be a team leader.
“I try to be very understanding. I was in the same position three years ago,” Rams said. “I know what they’re going through. I try to be a good example for them.”
“[Kacper] has always been a good player for us,” Mauro said. “He’s always stepped up.”
The team is only allowed eight hours of practice a week during the offseason, per NCAA rules.
“We’re only allowed to have two hours of on-court skill instructions,” Mauro said. “The other time will be spent with strength and conditioning.”
“We are always trying to practice constantly and continue playing,” Marquart said. “[We will] just continue playing and practicing well just to continue the shape that we are in right now so we can get even better.”
The team will return to campus in the spring a week earlier than the rest of the students to practice for their first spring competition, the VCU 4+1 Invite in Richmond, Va., Mauro said. The team has big expectations for the spring season.
“I think we can definitely get better and stronger,” Mauro said. “I’m very optimistic about our chances this year winning the [Atlantic 10 Conference].”
“The team is a little bit stronger than it used to be,” Rams said. “There are other good teams in the conference, but we are hoping to win.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.