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Men’s tennis gets set for Notre Dame

Jacob Westendorf , Sports Writer
May 6, 2014
Filed under Sports

The UW-Green Bay Men’s tennis team won the Horizon League conference tournament in dramatic fashion and clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Their opponent will be the University of Notre Dame, in a match that will take place Saturday May 10.

The men earned their trip to the NCAA Tournament in a thriller, defeating Cleveland State in the Horizon League tournament’s final match by a score of 4-3.

The win didn’t come without drama. After taking a comfortable 3-1 lead in the match, Cleveland State rallied with two big wins to knot the match at three points apiece. In the deciding game, sophomore Howard Scott at one point trailed 5-1. Scott, who was brilliant all season for UWGB, won six straight games, and gave the Phoenix its second automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in three years.

Following the match, the Phoenix learned its fate, and that they would be playing the Fighting Irish. It will be a road match because they have to travel to Indiana to play at the Courtney Tennis Center in Notre Dame, Ind.

“It’s an exciting time for this team and for the program being back in the NCAA Tournament,” Phoenix head coach Mark Thomas said. “It represents a lot of hard work through the fall and spring seasons. We’re excited for the opportunity to play against a great team in Notre Dame, and we’re going to prepare to try and pull out an upset.”

It’s a different mindset for the Phoenix entering this tournament. They entered the season as preseason favorites for the Horizon League. Now they enter the NCAA tournament as heavy underdogs facing a team from the  BCS conference.

“We understand the difference in playing the underdog role, but despite our youth on the team, there is a lot of NCAA tournament experience,” Thomas said. “A lot of our guys were on the team that went to the tournament two years ago, and we are going to look to use that as an advantage for us going into the match this weekend.”

The underdog role is something the team’s players appreciate, and will relish going into the tournament.

“It will be a nice change of pace, playing the whole season with a target on our back and having everyone looking to beat us,” Sophomore Howard Scott said. “Now, we enter this tournament as a team that’s not expected to win, so we have nothing to lose so we can just play loose, and hopefully we will be able to surprise some teams.”

Scott will be joined in the first doubles match, as always, by his teammate Michael Tenzer. Together Scott and Tenzer formed a dynamic tandem that was unbeatable at times in Horizon League play. The duo could be the team’s biggest advantage entering the match against Notre Dame.

“Howard and I will be looking to just continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Tenzer said. “It was a big thrill to get an automatic bid into the tournament, but now Howard and I know that it’s back to business, and we’ll have a chance to do something special if we just continue to play our game.”

Cinderella stories become a common theme in March during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but with a team that has a lot of experience and a desire to win, the Phoenix could be poised for a story of its own.

If they continue to play the way they did during their entire conference play schedule, they will be poised to complete an upset early and extend their run into the latter half of May.