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Men’s Tennis to Face Bucknell in Conference Quarterfinals Friday

Players shooting for their first-ever Patriot League title

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Having four freshmen in a six-man lineup is never easy for a varsity program, but it was no handicap for the BU men’s tennis team last year: the Terrier players finished the season with a promising 14-12 record. So expectations were high that they would have a strong showing this year.

But the season has been a letdown for the team, which has yet to find success—largely because of a series of injuries bedeviling players, says head coach Dejan Stankovic (Wheelock’10,’15). Still, players and coach remain optimistic that they have a shot at capturing their first-ever Patriot League title this weekend.

“You can’t argue the record,” Stankovic says. “But the team understands what it comes down to, and it all comes down to this weekend. We can beat anybody in the tournament. We just need to get healthy.”

With an 8-15 record (3-4 in Patriot League), fifth-seeded BU is far from the tournament favorite. That title belongs to Navy, which ended the season with a perfect conference record. But the Terriers hope to have a full roster of healthy players on hand when they take on Bucknell in the men’s quarterfinals at Army today, Friday, April 19.

Still, all the injuries and a losing record can be tough for a team with such a young roster. As a result, Stankovic has focused on his Terriers’ mental fortitude going into the conference tournament.

“The tournament has so many challenges in there,” he says. “We’re a few points away from winning it, and a few points away from losing it. We just have to be mentally tougher than everybody else.”

This season, BU’s singles lineup has most often featured three sophomores and a freshman in the top-four positions. The sophomores say they’ve benefited from having an additional year under their belt.

“We’ve gotten over the growing pains, so to speak, and we’re a little bit more accustomed to the atmosphere and the competition level of college tennis,” sophomore Pete Siozios (ENG) says.

Sophomore Owen Lu swings his racket

Sophomore Owen Lu (CAS) says the men’s tennis team has “the mind-set of destroying everyone in the conference” going into the Patriot League quarterfinals on Friday.

Players have been able to depend on one another through this year’s injuries and losses, they say. “Although tennis can feel like an individual sport, we have six people playing on the court,” says sophomore Owen Lu (CAS). “Every single person is important, and we have to support each other. We cannot win if someone is playing really well, while someone else is not. There’s just no chance we can win as a team.”

As the season winds up, Stankovic says he hopes the struggles his players have gone through will serve as teaching moments: “It’s kind of like, the whole season has been developing and developing, and now we see those investments at the end of the season, when it really matters.”

The Terriers know they face a formidable challenger in Bucknell. They fell to the Bison, 3-4, just last weekend in the penultimate match of the regular season. But given the close score, the BU players have reason to hope they can beat their tournament quarterfinal opponent.

“We have the confidence as a team and the determination to win the whole thing,” Lu says. “We don’t care what ranking we are. We have to beat everybody in order to be the champions and take the trophy. We just have the mind-set of destroying everyone in the conference.”

The BU men’s tennis team competes against Bucknell in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals Friday, April 19, at 11 am. The semifinals are Saturday, April 20, at 10 am, and the championship game is Sunday, April 21, at noon. All matches will be played at the US Military Academy’s Lichtenberg Tennis Center, 1204 Stony Lonesome Rd., West Point, N.Y.

Senior Jonathan Chang (COM) can be reached at jchang19@bu.edu; follow him on Twitter at @jonathanychang.

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