UW set for Nielsen match

first_imgWhen the UW men’s tennis team takes the court this Saturday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium to face Butler, they will do so as one of the best tennis teams the school has seen in a long time. The Badgers are currently 6-3 overall, and 2-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1993. In addition, they are ranked 65th in the country — the first time they have been ranked in several years. Contributing to their success have been three key members of the team: first-year head coach Greg Van Emburgh, sophomore captain Jeremy Sonkin, and junior captain Lachezar Kasarov.Van Emburgh is a former ATP player whose doubles career includes victories over the likes of Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, and Boris Becker. Perhaps more impressive is his head coaching career at the University of Kentucky (his alma mater) where his teams ranked no lower than 15th in his four seasons there.While Van Emburgh is quick to credit the players for the team’s great start, the players insist it is Van Emburgh who may have sparked this turnaround.”Obviously, we are way better than we were last year, and it speaks for itself,” Kasarov said. “If people want to question something he does, they just have to look at the results and see that we’re doing way better than in the past.”Kasarov, the No. 4 singles player on the team, has also garnered praise from both his coaches and teammates.”His progress on and off the court has been tremendous,” Van Emburgh said. “He’s done an unbelievable job of building up his confidence, projecting that confidence, winning on the court, and getting behind his teammates. He’s really a great kid.”Co-captain Sonkin had similar extol for Kasarov.”He’s a big reason why this team keeps winning,” Sonkin said. “His fire that he brings to the court, his positivity, and his overall will to win is great and truly inspiring to me and everyone on the team.”Don’t excuse his positivity, however, for satisfaction.”My teammates and I have always believed that we could be 6-3 and 2-0, but we know we can achieve much better results,” Kasarov said. “We are looking forward to winning every single match; it’s a lot of fun.”As the lone junior on a team consisting of five sophomores, one freshman, and himself, Kasarov has had to embrace his role as captain. “Day in and day out with (Sonkin), we’re trying to lead the team by example and build confidence in our teammates,” Kasarov said. “We’re trying to show that we’re good enough to compete with anyone in the country.”While Kasarov’s impact on the team cannot be stressed enough, it may be Sonkin who is most responsible for the team’s success thus far.Sonkin is coming off two consecutive Big Ten Athlete of the Week awards and has yet to lose in Big Ten play. His dramatic singles victory over Northwestern’s Christian Tempke after losing the first set and falling behind 5-0 in the second set clinched the first team victory for the Badgers over Northwestern since 1991, and provided a spark that has not gone out yet.”[Sonkin] has done an unbelievable job this year, not just in his playing and improvement, but also in his leadership and his ability to unite this team,” Van Emburgh said. “For him to do what he did (against Northwestern) to not only win his match but win the match for the team shows his heart and dedication.”Van Emburgh also credits Sonkin’s “never give up” attitude, which his co-captain reiterated.”He’s just a great guy, a great teammate to have, and a fierce competitor,” Kasarov said. “He refuses to lose and it’s awesome to have him on the team.Despite the team’s success, they refuse to overlook anyone.”Every match is going to be tough. It would be a big mistake to take any match for granted,” Sonkin said. “We have to prepare the same way for (6-7) Butler as we would for (No. 3-ranked) Illinois.”last_img