Talented’ newcomers impress men’s tennis coach

Temple added two transfers and two freshmen as it replaces its top singles player from last season.

Sophomore Juan Araoz readies to hit a volley back to his teammate during practice at the Student Pavilion on Oct. 25. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / FILE PHOTO

The Owls lost their top singles player from last season when Artem Kapshuk transferred to Texas Tech University in June.

Kapshuk had a 42-16 record in two seasons with the Owls and started Spring 2017 as one of the top players in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Atlantic Regional Rankings.

The fall-season performances of the Owls’ newcomers, set to replace Kapshuk this year, impressed coach Steve Mauro.

“They are really talented players,” Mauro said. “It’s tough to lose a player as good as Artem, but these guys have been doing a good job. I think we’re going to have a really strong team this year.”

Temple added four players for the 2017-18 season. Two of them are transfers. Sophomore Juan Araoz played for Hampton University last season, and junior Alberto Caceres Casas spent the past two campaigns at Armstrong State University, a Division II school in Savannah, Georgia.

Caceres Casas posted the third-highest win total at Armstrong State last season with a 23-8 singles record, including a 3-1 record against nationally ranked opponents. He finished the 2016-17 season ranked by the ITA as the 35th-best Division II singles player.

Araoz was Hampton’s top player last season, Mauro said. Araoz had a team-best 11-3 singles record, and he had the best doubles record at 8-5 with junior Matthew Foster-Estwick.

Araoz won his flight at the Joe Hunt Invitational in Annapolis, Maryland, to open the fall season in September. He closed the fall by advancing to the singles round of 32 at the ITA Regionals in October.

After winning his flight at the meet hosted by Navy in September, Araoz lost two matches, 6-3, 6-4, at the ITA Invitational in Oklahoma.

“It was a tough change because I was playing number one at my other school,” Araoz said. “I came here and saw that the levels [of competition] were higher. The levels in the tournaments are way higher here than the other tournaments. It was hard for me to win matches and try to be at my best level.”

Temple’s two other new additions are freshmen Michael Haelen and Mark Wallner. Haelen earned his first-career win against Fairleigh Dickinson University senior William Bourne at the Farnsworth Invitational in October hosted by Princeton University.

Wallner attended IMG Academy, a Florida boarding school with acclaimed athletics. The Germany native was ranked as the 16th-best prospect in Florida from the high school class of 2017 by Tennis Recruiting Network.

The Owls had a 7-9 record at the Princeton Invitational on Oct. 8, but Wallner won his first two matches against Marist College sophomore Christopher Gladden and Middlebury College sophomore Weston Brach.

At the ITA Regionals in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Oct. 27, Wallner made it to the singles round of 32 after he defeated Mount St. Mary’s University freshman Jackson Wood and Old Dominion University senior Michael Weindl withdrew due to injury.

“Compared to Florida, it’s different because I was playing high school tennis and this is college tennis,” Wallner said. “The game is different. It’s more competitive. People are stronger and better.”

“We help each other a lot,” Caceres Casas said. “No one is more important. No one is better than the other one. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win for the team. Coach is always there for help. If you need something or if you’re having a problem with something, he will be there to help you. Same goes for the assistant coaches.”

After finishing with an 11-11 record in their first campaign in the American Athletic Conference, the Owls have recorded three straight seasons with at least 15 wins. They’ll enter Spring 2018 with that streak and a 30-0 mark in home matches starting since the 2014-15 season.

“Our guys have been working hard, as well as the coaching staff,” Mauro said. “There’s a big group of us. Everyone is putting the right effort forth in order to make a successful season.”

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