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SEASON PREVIEW: 2017 Concordia men's tennis

By Jake Knabel on Feb. 1, 2017 in Men's Tennis

At a glance
MEN
Head coach: Joel Reckewey (3rd year)
2016 record: 7-12, 1-4 GPAC (5th)
Key returners: Patricio Esquivel (Sr.); Thomas Greeff (So.); Javier Moreno (Sr.); Gabe Poling (So.)
Key loss: Willy Pardos
Newcomers: Alex Kaldahl; Caleb Lauby; Josh Miller; Lucas Zoller
2016 GPAC All-Conference: Willy Pardos (singles/doubles); Javier Moreno (doubles); Gabe Poling (singles) 

Outlook
The third season of head coach Joel Reckewey’s tenure leading the Concordia tennis programs is about to get underway. Four mainstays from last season’s lineup are back in the fold for the Bulldog men. That group includes seniors Patricio Esquivel and Javier Moreno, two natives of Morelia, Mexico, with vast collegiate playing experience. 

After producing a 7-12 overall record and fifth-place conference finish in 2016, the Bulldogs have hopes of taking a step up the ladder this spring.

“One thing we’ve talked about this season is the word toughness,” Reckewey said. “That’s a word we want to use. We don’t want to beat ourselves on the tennis court. We want to make our opponents earn it. If we play tough and we play Bulldog tennis, I think we’re going to be successful.”

Sophomore Gabe Poling is the lone returning Bulldog who earned singles all-conference recognition last season. The sophomore from Chillicothe, Mo., went 11-6 at the No. 5 singles position during his freshman campaign. He tied fellow rookie Willy Pardos (12-6) for the team lead in overall victories. Not far behind was Thomas Greeff, a native of Pretoria, South Africa, who spent virtually the entire 2016 season at the No. 2 singles spot.

The growth of Greeff and Poling could go a long ways towards determining Concordia’s team success. Reckewey likes how they’ve come along as a doubles combo.

“Both of those guys won some big matches last year,” Reckewey said. “They found ways to win. They’re both really tall and with the match experience from last year, I think they’re going to have a stronger presence on the doubles court. I think the experience goes a long way. Now they know what to expect.”

Reckewey believes freshman Lucas Zoller (Lenexa, Kan.) will be a regular in the lineup. Zoller shined as a state medalist during his prep career at DeSoto High School. He says the competition he’s seen in practice has already raised the level of his game.

“It’s definitely different from high school because you have guys that are better than you and it’s so competitive,” Zoller said. “It’s nice to get that competition every day at practice. It makes you a better player and gets you ready for the season.”

Moreno teamed up with Pardos (left the program) on a 4-1 GPAC record at the No. 1 doubles spot in 2016. Now Moreno will have to adjust to life with a new doubles partner. Other returners who saw action in varsity matches last season are sophomores Tommy McNish and Dalton Merka.

Meanwhile, Zoller is part of a freshman class that includes Alex Kahldahl, Caleb Lauby and Josh Miller. Said Reckewey, “We have a good freshman class. We have a lot of height and a lot of speed with Lucas, Josh Miller and Alex Kaldahl. Those guys have a lot of talent. We’re fortunate to have them on the team. They have the ability to get better and really impact the team positively.”

The season officially gets started on Saturday (Feb. 4) when the Bulldogs take on Baker University (Kan.) inside the Abbott Sports Complex in Lincoln. Zoller feels prepared to get his collegiate career underway. “I’d like to get some wins under my belt for sure, but the overall goal as a team is to get ready for conference and try to win conference.”