Warhawks go 3-1 in Florida

April 1, 2015 By Ryan Altman

After spending the first few months of the season playing either indoors or in frigid temperatures, the UW-Whitewater men’s tennis team had little time to acclimate itself to the 90-degree heat of Orlando, Florida.

Unlike the other participating schools on the spring trip, the Warhawks arrived the night before their first match on March 21, leaving only a couple hours to practice and adjust to the warmer weather.

The heat ultimately got the best of the No. 27 ’Hawks against Stevens Institute of Technology, as the men fell 6-3, on the first day of competition.

“We knew that [the match against Stevens] was the most important match of the trip, so we were a little disappointed,” head coach Frank Barnes said. “However, it was our first day there, and I think we suffered in the heat a little bit.”

The ’Hawks won two of three doubles matches to earn the lone doubles point, but  dropped five of six singles matches.

With a pre-scheduled day off and a rained-out match, the team had a couple days to relax and refocus its efforts on winning the last three matches of the trip. The team spent a day at Universal Studios and the beach to help take their minds off the loss.

The break served the ’Hawks (14-5) well as they dominated each of its next three opponents: Division-III’s Colby College, 9-0, and Hamilton College, 8-1, and NAIA’s Northwood (Fla.), 7-2, who was previously undefeated.

“It was awesome,” junior Jake Humphreys said. “We played some of the best matches of the season as a team [following the days off]. It was a great for all of us to be able to focus in and pick up some good wins.”

Humphreys won all four of his singles matches during the trip, including a 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 victory over Northwood’s nationally ranked singles player, Alvaro Iturriaga.

Iturriaga, ranked No. 22 in the latest NAIA national rankings, became the fourth nationally ranked player Humphreys has defeated this season.

“I go into each match with the same mentality no matter what,” said Humphreys, who also won two doubles matches with partner senior Cam Laktash. “But it feels good…these wins will definitely help me going forward the remainder of the season.”

Another handful of ’Hawks left Orlando with winning records. Sophomore Rithwik Rajshekhar Raman paced the ’Hawks with six combined wins in singles and doubles to just one loss.

Junior Michael Treis and senior Ben Shklyar tallied five wins, while Laktash added three.

With two wins each, freshman Matt Zurowski and junior Matt Bisbee moved into a tie for a team-high 13 victories.

Even though both players are usually found at the backend of the ’Hawks’ lineup, their success has become a testament to Barnes’ belief in having extensive team depth.

Barnes said he believes that depth particularly played a role in their win over Colby. The ’Hawks avenged a 5-4 setback last spring to the Mules.

“With all the injuries we’ve had this season, it has to be the most I’ve seen during my time here [at Whitewater],” said Barnes, who began coaching the men in 2002. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to rest some people at different times.”

The ’Hawks return to the court on Sunday at 1 p.m. for an afternoon dual against Kalamazoo College before heading to St. Louis, Missouri, the following week for a pair of meets versus Washington University and University of Chicago.

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