Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Freshman tennis duo leading the charge

Freshmen Ethan Niquet (left) and Byron Balkin have been catalysts for the 18-4 Warhawks this season. Niquet is 20-5 in singles play, while Balkin is 19-6. Photo by Kelsey Welke

When a program loses a majority of its lineup, expectations might not be as high for that team the following year.

But for the men’s tennis team, expectations are always high.

Losing five seniors from last year doesn’t matter. Losing its top three singles players doesn’t matter. And certainly losing its No. 1 doubles team hasn’t affected the team.

After all, the team is clicking on all cylinders, as it won its ninth-straight match last Sunday to improve its record to 18-4.

As a result, the Warhawks are currently No. 8 in the Central Region, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

One of the main reasons: Freshmen Byron Balkin and Ethan Niquet.

“We hit the lottery last year with recruiting,” head coach Frank Barnes said. “I was hoping to get one of those guys, but I’m thrilled that we landed both.”

Balkin and junior Mitch Osborne are 18-2 at No. 1 doubles and are currently No. 7 in the Central Region.

Niquet and sophomore Andrew Bayliss are 17-1 at No. 2 doubles, while Niquet also boasts a 20-5 record in singles.

These results come after both were accomplished players in high school.

Niquet, from Marquette High School, advanced to the WIAA Division I state tournament all four years (one for singles and three for doubles).

He ended his high school career with a state doubles championship last year.

Balkin advanced to the state tournament twice while playing singles at Madison Memorial High School.

While Balkin and Niquet both boast impressive tennis résumés, both have also been fortunate enough to be paired with experienced doubles partners.

Osborne and Bayliss are both Division 1 transfers who have helped mold the raw talent of Balkin and Niquet, who were almost partners themselves.

“Coming in, my thought was to pair Byron and Ethan, but they clicked so well with their upperclassmen that we stuck with it,” Barnes said. “I could see them playing together down the road though. It’s actually part of the reason they both came here.”

Both players were thrilled to make the leap to the collegiate level and have seen their play improve after making the transition.

“This whole experience has been so exciting because I’ve played well, and I have all these great players on my team,” Balkin said. “Hopefully, I will continue to improve my game. I can’t wait to see what I’m like as a senior.”

On the other hand, Niquet said the sky is the limit for the ’Hawks the rest of the season.

“I’ve been playing the best tennis of my life since I got here,” Niquet said. “I love playing with my teammates. I love what Frank has done for this program, and we’re on a tear right now.”

Barnes said he is excited for what Niquet and Balkin can do in the upcoming years.

“We have a few juniors this year running the show and a lot of new faces,” Barnes said. “It’s tough for freshmen to step up, but that’s what I would like to see from Ethan and Byron in the future, for them to take on leadership roles.”

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Founded 1901
Freshman tennis duo leading the charge