Coming off of a rough spring season a year ago, Northwest men's tennis hopes its youthful team has what it takes to bounce back.
The Bearcats were picked to finish third in the MIAA coaches rankings this season. Coach Mark Rosewell addressed the rankings and said it’s not where you start, but it’s where you finish that matters.
“I thought we had an excellent fall,” Rosewell said. “We have a lot of young players. We have two really experienced teams in Southwest Baptist and Washburn, who are both nationally ranked. So picking us third was about right.”
Southwest Baptist was picked by four out of the five coaches to win this year’s championship. Washburn received the other first-place vote. Last year’s reigning champions beat Northwest in the opening round of the tournament.
During the fall season, sophomore Franco Oliva placed third at the ITA Cup. Oliva is Rosewell's highest finisher at the ITA Cup in his 37-year career at Northwest.
“It was encouraging,” Rosewell said. “We’ve got some other good young players. I think we’ll be a better team by May than we will be in February and March.”
Northwest finished fourth in the MIAA last year and did something it hadn’t done in eight years: win the conference championship. Overall, the Bearcats finished 10-9 overall and 2-3 in the MIAA.
“We don’t consider it a successful year last year,” Rosewell said. “It was a down year for us last year but we lost all of our players, Romain (Boissinot) and all his teammates. We are headed in the right direction.”
Northwest struggled with highly touted teams last year, going 0-3 against nationally ranked opponents and 1-4 versus regionally ranked competition.
With only two seniors on the Northwest squad this year, the majority of the team is made up of underclassmen. Rosewell explained experience came at a premium last year for the Bearcats.
“We lost a lot of close matches,” Rosewell said. “We didn't have the experience to win a lot of those matches, and it cost us.”
Former Bearcat and grad assistant Romain Boissinot explained his experience playing can help the younger players in conference matches.
“It’s more my four years experience playing and especially in the conference matches when they are feeling more pressure, I try to help them and guide them,” Boissinot said. “I tell them what to focus on to reduce the pressure of those matches.”
Boissinot was named the MIAA Freshman of the Year and MIAA Player of the Year in his first two seasons with the Bearcats. The former Northwest standout recorded 57 wins during his time as a Bearcat and ranks seventh all-time in doubles wins.
When it comes to the experience under pressure, Northwest lacked last year. Boissinot said he attempts to use his past to help the current players hone in.
“Usually I try to guide them in their strategy,” Boissinot said “I try to keep them focused on that, and I try not to let them think of anything else. In tennis, since you’re basically fighting against your opponent but you are fighting with yourself too when there is pressure. Focusing on your strategy is helpful to relieve pressure.”