Tennis players win regional doubles championship


Provided by Warhawk Mens Tennis

John Zakowski (left) and Luke VanDonslear (right) hold their regional championship awards in front of an ITA banner in St. Peter, Minnesota, hosted by Gustavus Adolphus on Sunday Oct. 2.

Nick Walczak, Men’s Sports Assistant Editor

Luke VanDonslear and John Zakowski are an exciting duo on the UW-Whitewater men’s tennis team. The pair won the ITA Midwest Regional Doubles Championship in an electrifying fashion after fighting off four consecutive match points. 

VanDonslear is a junior on the team and became a Warhawk this season after transferring from Northern Illinois University where he competed for the tennis program and earned an All-MAC academic recognition. 

Zakowski is a senior who transferred in 2021 after spending the previous two seasons at the University of Denver. Last season, Zakowski won both the doubles and singles regional titles, he finished the year ranked No. 22 in the nation in singles and No. 12 in doubles. 

Q: Why did you guys choose to transfer to Whitewater?

Luke A: My last few years, I’ve been playing at NIU. I had a good experience there, but I just thought it was time to go somewhere else and continue to play tennis and enjoy it. I knew this program had a good legacy and a lot of good players, so I wanted to come here and see what I can do. 

John A: The reason I came to Whitewater is because of its close proximity to my home, being from Green Bay. Also, the fact that Whitewater is a good balance of both tennis with athletics along with academics here, so it has been a really good fit for me. 

Q: What does it mean for you guys to win the Midwest Regional Doubles Championship?

Luke A: It’s a little different for Johnny because he’s already done it, he won doubles and singles last year, but for me, it’s surreal. It’s an awesome feeling. The way we won too, how we did it, coming back from that deficit. Yeah, it’s a really awesome feeling, especially getting to do it with Johnny.

John A: I would say it’s pretty fulfilling. Obviously, I’m very grateful to just be in the position that I am, with being able to win it this year and last year. Not a lot of people can do that, so I am just very honored and grateful for what my family has given me. The opportunity to play tennis here is something that I take very seriously, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Going forward, winning regionals was great, but I also have bigger goals and I’m excited to see what we do at nationals in the fall, hopefully we can take home the trophy.

Q: Who would win in a singles match between the two of you?

Luke A: I mean, I know I have to play my best tennis if I even want to come close to beating him. That’s all I have to say about that. (Both laughed).

John A: Honestly, when Luke is on, he’s a very tough opponent to beat. Any given day, I think he can definitely take a match off me. So, I know every time I play Luke I have to play to win and not hold anything back.

Q: What goals do you both have moving forward?

Luke A: We go to Georgia next week, hopefully we can have a good run and maybe take a crack at getting a title, which would be really cool. For the spring, for the team, I think winning conference is a goal it’s a big tradition here, even qualifying for the national tournament. 

John A: I fulfilled a lot of what I wanted to last year. But, this year moving forward, my goal is just to continue to get better and if the opportunity presents itself, which at nationals next week I will have the opportunity to win a national title, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Whitewater. Hopefully we can try and get that job done.

The chemistry the two have on and off the court is undeniable. They are great friends and terrific teammates. The duo competes at the ITA Oracle Cup Nationals Oct. 13-16, where they hope to take home the doubles national championship and have high hopes for competing for the singles national championship as well. After nationals concludes, the team picks up play Jan. 28, against Wabash College and Cardinal Stritch University, indoors at Lake Geneva Tennis, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.