GVSU men’s tennis uses 2015 season as motivation

GVL / Emily Frye 
Sophomore Alex van de Steenoven serves the ball during a match against Daeman College on Feb 14, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Sophomore Alex van de Steenoven serves the ball during a match against Daeman College on Feb 14, 2016.

Brady McAtamney

The Grand Valley State men’s tennis team suffered a crushing end to its storied 2015 season with a defeat in the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament at the hands of the University of Indianapolis.

The loss left a sour taste in the Lakers’ mouths, and sparked a fire that can now be doused by building upon the outstanding 2015 season and advancing to the Sweet 16 and beyond in 2016.

The Lakers believe this goal is within reach.

“We do have a lot of new players and I think all of us are much more focused,” said senior Michael Kaye. “We want to make it to the Sweet 16, so we’ll be working hard every day to make that happen.”

The road to the tournament is one paved with challenge, though, as the Lakers will go against strong opponents regularly, including a rematch with Indianapolis, and confrontations with GLIAC rivals Ferris State and Northwood.

“Our big one is Ferris,” Kaye said. “They’re pretty strong this year and they’re our biggest rival,” Kaye said. “Northwood is another big one because they’ve always been the best and beating them would send a big message.”

Before they reach the Sweet 16, though, there looms another goal — to win the GLIAC.

“This year we expect to win conference,” said junior Jack Heiniger. “We were real close last year and this year we want to go undefeated and win it.”

GVSU went undefeated in the GLIAC regular season last year, but was unable to finish it off when tournament time came.

The Lakers’ optimism and drive have them believing deep down that this is, in fact, their year.

“We are working hard and continuously improving. We’re focusing on getting sharp so that when we start playing we’ll be playing our A-game,” said GVSU head coach John Black. “Work hard, we’re playing good tennis, and I think we’ll be competing to be the top team this year. A lot of young players are stepping up and getting the job done right now.”

After last year, two seniors from the tournament-contending team departed, but with the losses came significant gains. Freshmen Filipe Castanheira (Portugal), Pedro Gomez (Spain), Sebastien Lescoulie (Illinois), Marcus Muniz Infante (Spain) and Nicholas Urban (Illinois) will all step in and assume critical roles, whether on or off the court, in ensuring the team reaches new program heights.

The Laker men defeated Daemen College in a clean sweep, 9-0, on Feb. 14. Both Heiniger and Kaye shut out their opponents in singles matches, while the rest of the singles competitors allowed a total of three points.

Next on the docket emerges local adversary Davenport University (1-1). The match will take place a short bus ride away on Feb. 19 at the Grand Rapids Premier Athletic Club.