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SEASON PREVIEW: 2018 men's tennis

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 2, 2018 in Men's Tennis

Head coach: Joel Reckewey (4th year)
2017 record: 10-12, 2-3 GPAC (4th)
Key returners: Thomas Greeff (Jr.); Josh Miller (So.); Lucas Zoller (So.)
Key losses: Patricio Esquivel; Javier Moreno; Gabe Poling
Newcomers: Jeremy Berryman; Giovanni Borghi Camacho De Moraes; Jonathan Keith
2017 GPAC All-Conference: Javier Moreno (doubles); Gabe Poling (doubles; honorable mention singles)

The return of No. 1 player junior Thomas Greeff along with the influx of newcomers such as Jason Berryman and Gio Moraes provide reason for optimism following a GPAC tournament semifinal appearance for Concordia men’s tennis in 2017. The Bulldogs already have a win under their belt this 2017-18 campaign having defeated Kansas Wesleyan University, 5-4, back in the fall.

In that season-opening match, Concordia mixed in some old and some new. The top four spots in the singles lineup were held down by Greeff and sophomores Alex Kaldahl, Josh Miller and Luke Zoller. Collectively, they have put together a solid offseason, according to fourth-year head coach Joel Reckewey, who now has help from assistant coach Nikita Kostikov.

“We had a great, strong offseason,” Reckewey said. “We came to play. I was just impressed with the way we were supporting each other and competing. I’m looking forward to our spring season coming up.”

Greeff has gotten comfortable at the top of the lineup since arriving at Concordia prior to the 2015-16 school year. The native of Pretoria, South Africa, turned in a record of 9-7 at the No. 1 singles spot in 2017. Not only did Greeff have to adjust to English schooling and a new culture, he had to quickly learn to compete against the best players from opposing NAIA schools.

Now with more than 40 college singles matches under his belt, Greeff has learned what it takes to win at this level. The aforementioned sophomore group has also had a chance to get its feet underneath it.

“Never be intimidated,” said Greeff of what he’s learned in his first two college seasons. “If someone has a ranking, it’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything. If they’re a senior or freshman, that also doesn’t mean anything. It’s just about who wants to win.”

Two familiar faces have graduated and moved on: Morelia, Mexico, natives Patricio Esquivel and Javier Moreno. Both were fixtures in the lineup for all four years. The Bulldogs also lost Gabe Poling, who went 16-3 last season in singles play.

What that means is greater opportunity for everyone else on board. Both Reckewey and Greeff identified Berryman as someone who can help out immediately. Berryman, who hails from Broken Arrow, Okla., opened his college career in the fall with a victory at No. 5 singles. In practice, Greeff has been testing newcomers like Berryman and Moraes to see how they stack up.

“In practice I try to pick on them a bit and encourage them to beat me,” Greeff said. “The better they get, the more they will push me. The better I play against them, the more I’ll push them. I hope we can keep on pushing each other and breaking boundaries as we improve.”

The one victory back in the fall isn’t enough evidence to know for certain how Concordia will fare against the top of the league. Hastings, Doane and Morningside separated themselves as the top three in a six-team GPAC men’s tennis league in 2017. If the Bulldogs break into that elite grouping, it will mean that Greeff and company have significantly elevated their games.

In doubles action, Greeff and Zoeller played together all year long in 2017. On the other hand, the combos that were used in the fall against Kansas Wesleyan – Kaldahl/Miller and Berryman/Moraes – may need some time to put it all together.

A lot more will be learned about Bulldog men’s tennis during February, which includes five matches. The spring season will get started on Friday, Feb. 9 when Baker University makes a visit to the Fieldhouse.

Said Reckewey, “Every year is a new year. The team is improving. You have to control the things that you can control. You have to prepare throughout the offseason. We had a good fall. Hopefully we’ll be in fighting shape and ready to play at the highest level that we can play.”