Season Preview: Men's Tennis looks to take step forward in 2017-18

Season Preview: Men's Tennis looks to take step forward in 2017-18

By Caleb Scott

ADA — The Ohio Northern men's tennis team will look to continue to move forward and challenge for an Ohio Athletic Conference title in 2017-18 under the guidance of second-year head coach Mike Bonnell.

In his first season as Ohio Northern's first full-time men's tennis head coach, Bonnell guided the Polar Bears to an 11-11 mark and a sixth place finish in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

"Last year was a good learning point for our guys," said head coach Mike Bonnell. "We are really focusing on just being a competitive team this season and pushing to compete for a conference title. We always want that goal on our radar and really want to 'Restore the Roar.' This is a tough and competitive conference and we want to be able to challenge for an OAC championship."

Bonnell will welcome back six letterwinners in 2017-18, led by 2-time letterwinners and juniors Jake Abbott (Kenton), David Hayman (Westerville/South), and Tim Kargl (Downers Grove, Ill./South).

Hayman, a 2016-17 Second Team All-OAC honoree, led the team in singles play last season with a team-best 17 victories, primarily at the Nos. 2 and 3 singles courts.

Abbott, a 2016-17 Scholar ITA Athlete, was tied for second on the team with 12 singles victories, while Kargl, who was named Honorable Mention All-OAC, paced Northern at No. 1 singles with seven victories.

Hayman and Kargl were tied for first on the team with 12 victories each in doubles play, while Abbott also posted double-digit victories in doubles play (10).

Senior letterwinner Cody Hurley (Centerville) will also make his return in 2017-18.

The senior recorded six victories in singles play, and was fourth on the team a season ago with 11 doubles victories.

Sophomore Tyler Frantz (Bellefontaine) and Andrew Garcia (Downers Grove, Ill./South) also return for ONU after lettering in 2016-17.

Frantz owned a 12-8 record in singles play, while Garcia posted seven victories at No. 2, 3, and 4 singles.

Garcia was tied for first on the team with 12 victories in doubles play, whle Frantz posted nine victories in doubles play.

"We have a lot of new talent coming in this season," said Bonnell. "Our upperclassmen are going to need to lead this team and step into that leadership role. It's still a learning process for our upperclassmen, being only the second year in this system. We have some great guys and we really want to stress competition this year. We want to be a very competitive team."

The Polar Bears welcome six newcomers to the team, including sophomore Connor Christian (Gallipolis/Gallia Academy) and freshmen Hoang Do (Powell/Olentangy Liberty), Joji ImatomiJoshua McClure (Mount Vernon), Drew Sarno (Elida), and Vinh Thai (Galloway/St. Charles).

"These new guys really have a chance to compete for us," said Bonnell. "They aren't going to be handed a spot in the rotation, but we expect them to work hard to earn time on the court. This incoming group really creates a competitive dynamic for our team as a whole. I think they will push our upperclassmen and hopefully make a solid impact for us.

The Polar Bears will open the season Sept. 16-17 as it competes in the 2-day Oberlin Tournament before traveling to to Kalamazoo (Mich.) to compete in the ITA Regionals on Sept. 29 - Oct. 1.

Northern opens its Spring schedule on Feb. 10 as it travels to Albion (Mich.) to take on the the Britons at 2 pm before taking on Olivet (Mich.) at 6 pm.

On Feb. 17, Northern will travel to Franciscan to take on the Barons at 10 am before traveling to Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) to compete at 3 pm.

The home portion of the schedule will open on Feb. 25 as Northern hosts Penn St.-Behrend.

Other home contests feature bouts with Trine (Ind.) on Mar. 18, Heidelberg on Mar. 24, Earlham (Ind.) on Mar. 28, Baldwin Wallace on Apr. 11, and John Carroll on Apr. 14.

In the month of March, ONU will compete on the road at Adrian (Mich.) on Mar. 21, Ohio Wesleyan on Mar. 24, and will open the OAC portion of the schedule at Capital on Mar. Mar. 30.

Other away contests feature matches at Mount Union on Apr. 7, Otterbein on Apr. 17, Mount Vernon Nazarene on Apr. 28 and the OAC Tennis Fest at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio from Apr. 20-22.

The OAC Tournament is slated for May 1-5 at campus locations.

"I think this is definitely a tougher schedule than last season," said Bonnell. "We have a couple days where we play two schools in one day. Our guys will be in shape to compete on those kinds of long days. We really wanted to beef up the schedule and kind of cast a larger net to see where we are at. I'm excited for the season and to see where our team can go this season."