With his college playing career behind him, Yhonny Murray is now trying to assist the men’s tennis team from a position off the court.
Murray’s four years of college eligibility expired last year, but he returned this season as an assistant coach while he finishes up his physical education degree.
“Obviously, at first it’s a little tough because it’s hard to go from a player to assistant coach in your first year,” Murray said. “You’re out there helping the guys and you’re so excited sometimes. You want to go out there and help, obviously, but I’m getting used to it. You’ve got to move on. You can’t be a player forever.”
Murray’s move to a coaching position is not the only major change for the Owls this season. Steve Mauro replaces Bill Hoehne as head coach, while seven newcomers join an Owls team that returns just three players from last season.
Both Mauro and junior Matt Struble agreed the addition of Murray as an assistant will ease the transition of adjusting to a new head man.
“[Yhonny] has great playing skills, so he’s able to push the guys in practice and everyone on the team respects him,” Mauro said.
“I think Yhonny can help us because he was in the same situation [as the players] last year,” Struble added. “So he can certainly give us some advice because he understands the situation. He helps out Coach too, because Coach is in a new situation and Yhonny’s familiar with it.”
The seven newcomers give the Owls depth, a factor Struble said they lacked last season. In singles, senior transfer Milan Juricka will hold the No. 1 spot and, once eligible, senior transfer Dan Davis the No. 2. Struble will hold the No. 3 position while sophomore transfers Zach Tobias and Philip Gegenheimer hold Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Junior transfer Jordan Krevitz will be slotted sixth once eligible.
The three doubles pairs consist of Juricka and junior Jon Sy, Tobias and Struble, and Gegenheimer and freshman Robert Spencer.
“They’re pretty much a solid team, top to bottom,” Murray said. “That’s going to make a difference when you play matches. You get a chance to win at every spot, whereas before we usually used to win at the top and nothing at the bottom.”
The Owls moved to 2-0 on the season with a win over Saint Francis last Wednesday. Another win and the Owls will equal their entire win total from last season, when they finished 3-10.
Murray said a team goal this year is to be competitive in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
“In the past that hasn’t been as easy, winning matches as a whole,” Murray said. “Right now we’re just trying to get over the hurdle and win as a team.”
Amid all of these changes, Mauro said he believes this season has given the team a new attitude.
“All of the players are real determined,” Mauro said. “Everyone is working hard. They seem focused and more into it than I believe they ever were in previous years.”
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.