Season preview: 2015 Concordia tennis

By on Feb. 10, 2015 in Men's Soccer

Season preview: 2015 Concordia tennis

MEN at a glance
Head Coach: Joel Reckewey (1st year)
2014 Record: 9-8 overall, 3-2 GPAC (3rd)
Returning Starters:  Jonathan Douglas, Patricio Esquivel, Javier Moreno, Philip Yox
Key Losses: Joel Kaldahl, Mike McCartney, Nathan Wingfield
2014 GPAC All-Conference: Patricio Esquivel (honorable mention doubles), Javier Moreno (honorable mention singles/doubles)

WOMEN at a glance
Head Coach: Joel Reckewey (1st year)
2014 Record: 2-13 overall, 2-5 GPAC (6th)
Returning Starters: Grace Hollenbeck, Elyse Kohl
Key Losses:  Katelyn Kohl
Key Newcomers: Alison Ebel, Annie Horn
2014 GPAC All-Conference: Katelyn Koll (No. 1 singles)

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

A new leader greeted the Concordia University tennis programs when student-athletes arrived on campus in the fall. Former University of Nebraska-Lincoln four-year letter winner Joel Reckewey steps into the head coaching position for both the men’s and women’s squads. Previously the head girl’s tennis coach at Lincoln Christian High School, Reckewey’s arrival brings greater stability to the program.

The first-year head coach aspires to make Concordia a GPAC frontrunner.

“Ultimately we would like to have a winning tradition here and help players develop and improve their games so they can be the best tennis players they can be,” Reckewey said. “We want to establish that Concordia University is the place to play within the GPAC from a winning standpoint, a coaching standpoint and a player’s standpoint. We want people to know that Concordia is a great place to spend your time playing college tennis.”

Returning and new players alike appreciate Reckewey’s enthusiastic and positive style of coaching. The 2015 Bulldogs have already seen gains in their play on the court.

“The way we run practices is really efficient,” said sophomore Philip Yox. “It’s definitely making a difference in the whole team. I feel like the whole team is getting a lot better.”

Added freshman Annie Horn, “I think his motivation and work ethic has really passed on to us players. He’s so excited for the upcoming season, which gets us all riled up.”

On the men’s side, Concordia is coming off a 9-8 season in which it placed third among the six men’s tennis squads in the GPAC. The Bulldogs say goodbye to three starters, including No. 1 player Nathan Wingfield, who went 4-12 in singles as a senior.

However, last year’s Nos. 2 and 3 players return in the form of Morelia, Mexico, natives Patricio Esquivel and Javier Moreno, who paired at No. 2 doubles and were named honorable mention all-conference. Moreno led the team with nine singles victories in 2014 while Esquivel came in right behind him with eight wins. Both will again be key components in the lineup after solid freshmen seasons.

“Patricio and Javier have a good skillset and are very talented,” Reckewey said. “If they play their best tennis they will have some success on the court. I’m really looking forward to watching them play and hopefully helping those guys so we can come together and be a really good team.”

Esquivel and Moreno are the headliners for a squad that also welcomes back senior Jonathan Douglas (9-5 at No. 3 doubles in 2014) and Yox, a sophomore who held down the No. 6 spot in the lineup for the bulk of the 2014 campaign. Freshman Preston Rupple (Greely, Colo.) could also push for court time while senior Brendan Buchanan shifts to tennis after a tremendous final season as the Bulldog men’s soccer goalkeeper.

The Concordia men hope to build upon 2014 highlights that included a pair of wins over rival Doane and a GPAC tournament quarterfinal victory over Midland, 8-1, prior to completing the season with a 5-1 semifinal loss to conference runner up Nebraska Wesleyan.

On the other hand, the women have a decidedly youthful roster. Last season the Bulldogs struggled to a 2-13 overall record, but the program had gone 41-14 (.745) in GPAC matches over the seven years prior to 2014. Unfortunately, the 2015 edition will face life without Katelyn Koll, a three-time first team all-conference performer who went 36-21 over her four-year career while mostly competing at No. 1 singles.

That means lone seniors Grace Hollenbeck and Elyse Kohl will be looked upon to fill leadership roles. Hollenbeck and Kohl held down the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in last season’s singles lineup.

“They’ve been awesome,” Horn said. “Since day one they were so inviting. Most of the team is made up of freshmen so we’re a little scared. We’re a young team and they were just so inviting. Grace is so encouraging when we’re hitting. She constantly is like, ‘keep it up girls. Keep going.’ That’s been really helpful to get us all adjusted to the team.”

Horn (Denver, Colo.) and fellow freshman Alison Ebel (Billings, Mont.) have shown well in offseason practice and will slot into the lineup to help lessen the blow of losing Koll. Horn earned conference MVP honors as a prep at D’Evelyn High School while Ebel served as a standout for Billings Skyview High School.

In total, seven of the nine women on the 2015 roster are new to Concordia. On the plus side, the class of recruits brings an infusion of talent.

“I think they have a lot of upside and a lot of talent and ability that can be developed into really strong players who can be a strong core of the team,” Reckewey said of Ebel and Horn. “I’m very impressed with their abilities and happy to have them on the team.”

Ebel says a business-like approach to the upcoming season will serve the Bulldogs well as a young roster gets more comfortable with the rigors of collegiate tennis.

“I think we’re very prepared and focused,” Ebel said. “I feel like it’s easier to focus because of the way Joel coaches and how he has us focus on tennis. There’s not really any room to mess around or joke around. You just have to play.”

Butterflies are likely to be part of the deal when the youthful squad opens the season with a match versus Southwestern College on Feb. 13. Concordia is guaranteed to have a singles lineup with at least four newcomers along with Hollenbeck and Kohl.

“I’m very excited, but a little nervous as can be expected,” Horn said. “But I think we are very prepared from what Coach has taught us so far. I’m looking forward to it.”

Friday (Feb. 13) will also mark Reckewey’s first outing as a collegiate head coach. Based on Concordia’s offseason preparation, Reckewey and the Bulldogs will be ready for it.

“I’ve really been looking forward to it,” Reckewey said. “The kids have spent a lot of time on and off the court trying to get into top shape and to peak at the right time. We’ve put in all this hard work and now it’s time to get out on the court and really see what we’re made of.”