The Yellow Jacket Menís Tennis Seeks an OAC Title in 2004
BEREA, OHIO -- The Baldwin Wallace University menís tennis team will seek to win the 2004 Ohio Athletic Conference title. The Yellow Jackets return six lettermen and keep a solid nucleus from last yearís team that was the first team in school history to reach the 20-win dual match mark and was two tie-break points shy of winning the 2003 OAC crown.
Back to lead the team is first-team All-OAC selection junior Ward Crane (Hudson/ Western Reserve Academy) and junior Mike Wagner (Avon Lake). Crane complied a 13-6 record last year and also was named Verizon Academic All-District IV. Now that he is fully recovered from knee surgery, he is looking forward to a breakout year at No.1 singles and is working hard toward becoming an Academic All-American. Crane has a 25-11 overall mark.
Wagner, "Mr. Consistency", compiled an 18-2 record at No.2 singles last year, was 19-2 overall and is motivated to challenge Crane for the No.1 singles spot this spring. The two juniors provide a solid one-two punch for the Yellow-Jackets on and off the court. In his two years on the varsity, Wagner is a two-time All-OAC pick and has a 34-5 career slate.
"Ward and Mike are both outstanding tennis players and solid team leaders," said veteran Head Coach Brian Rector, the winningest menís tennis coach in school history. "We feel very comfortable with those tow at the top of our lineup."
Also returning from last years 20-win team to compete for spots three through six in the lineup are seniors Dean Morse (Wickliffe), Alex Ison (Tallmadge), juniors Derek Sloan (Bellevue), Mike Popowicz (Spencer/ Cloverleaf) and Matt Seitz (Olmsted Falls).
Morse will battle with Ison for the No.3 singles spot. Last year, Morse and Seitz became the fourth and fifth players in school history to finish a season unbeaten. Morse was a combined 19-0, including 12-0 at No.6 singles. He is 35-5 in his three-year vasity career in singles. Seitz was 10-0 in 2003 and is 15-0 in his career. Ison started at No.3 a year ago and compiled a 12-5 mark. He transferred to BW three years ago after playing at Denison University as a freshman. He did not play tennis as a sophomore and still has two years of eligibility left.
"In both Alex and Dean, we have two players who have a proven winning track," said Rector. "Alex is very skilled and is a good player. Dean is our hardest worker and is like having another coach on the court. He is our only four-year senior player."
The greatest competition will come at the No.5 and No.6 singles spots where as many of five players have starter capabilities challenging for two spots.
If healthy, junior All-OAC player Adam Slabodnick (Ashland/ Senior) will make another huge impact and can play either fourth, fifth or sixth in the lineup. Seitz is another player who fits that bill. In addition, Sloan, sophomore Brandon May (New Philadelphia), who was 5-1 in limited action in 2003, and freshman Ryan McCartney (Lorain/ Admiral King) will also battle for playing time.
As a freshman, Slabodnick was 14-5 overall, including a 13-5 slate as the starter at No. 5. Last year, he was 15-3 overall, including 12-3 as the starter at No.4. Sloan was the starter at No.5 a year ago and had a 14-6 mark, including a 10-6 slate at No.5. He was 15-6 as a freshman, including 13-6 at No.6.
"Adam, Derek and Matt all have at least two years of experience and that should continue to make a difference. They are match-tested. We are hoping that one or two of them can step-up again this year to challenge for a top three spot in the lineup. Even if they donít, they will continue to give us strength and depth at the bottom three position. Both Brandon and Ryan are also talented and will help us be a better team.
The doubles teams could be the same as 2003 if Slabodnick is healthy. If not, look for Sloan to fill the gap at No.2 doubles and he will play with Crane. Wagner and Ison played at No.1 and Morse and May at No.3.
A year ago, Wagner and Ison played at No.1 and compiled a 12-7 mark. Crane and Slabodnick played at No.2 and were 14-4 in 2003. Morse and May return at No.3 after being 11-2 at No.3 and 13-2 overall. If Sloan plays at No.2 instead of Slabodnick, the duo have a 1-0 history together.
"We have three experienced doubles teams as well as a number of players who have interchanged with the three returning groups," said Rector. "I think all of our players feel very comfortable with one-another.
" We are excited about the upcoming season and plan to make a run at the OAC title," continued Rector. "I have seen positive work in the off-season by our players and experience and depth will contribute to our success. Last yearís team fell two tiebreak points shy of an OAC title. The entire team returns hungry to improve, and thatís a great situation for a coach."
This year, Yellow-Jackets team will strive to win the OAC but also has team goals to improve academically and become better people on and off the court, which should make for an enjoyable and successful season for the team. With experience and depth the team should challenge last yearís team as the best tennis in BW history.
The Yellow Jackets will play four matches in late February prior to departing for Hilton Head, South Carolina for their annual spring break trip, March 7-12.
FOR MORE BW SPORTS INFORMATION, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327, by FAX at 440-826-2329 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Head Coach Brian Rector, please call him at home at 440-891-8469 or e-mail him at email@example.com.