Western Courier

Western tennis ready for new look on the court

By Tom Loftus

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College often presents students with a wealth of opportunities for learning, camaraderie and even adventure. And sometimes the most memorable experiences are the ones that never unexpected to have.

If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a college athlete, but never dreamed you’d have a chance to find out, Chris Kane would be very interested in speaking with you.

Kane, the second-year Western Illinois University men’s and women’s tennis coach, currently has numerous openings for players on both squads, with a particular need for female competitors.

Walk-ons are most definitely welcome.

“On the women’s side, we have only one returning player, Amy Unzicker, and we have one freshman joining her,” Kane said.

“We will be having a tryout tournament at the very beginning of school for the women,” he added. “So I want to encourage every women’s tennis player to get out to our tryout tournament, because there’s a great opportunity to play (for us) in the fall.”

Women interested in trying out for the Leathernecks women’s tennis team will have the opportunity to do so on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. at the tennis courts adjacent to Brophy Hall.

In addition, Kane said that any students interested in joining either the men’s or women’s teams should feel free to contact him at 847/340-3205.

“I look at the fall season as the time for great improvement, because we have a lot of time to give individual attention to the players,” Kane said.

While both Western tennis teams have the bulk of their competitions scheduled between mid-January and mid-April, each team will compete this fall as well.

The men’s team opens its fall campaign by hosting the 7th annual Art Peterson Invitational. This meet, tentatively scheduled for Friday Sept. 9 and Saturday Sept. 10, will feature eight teams. Last season, Western produced a trio of runner-up finishers in the singles matches, as well as second- and third-place finishers in doubles at this event.

The Leatherneck women’s team, meanwhile, will not compete for the first time this fall until it hosts the 6th annual Hinds-Kellogg Classic, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday Oct. 7 and Saturday Oct. 8. Western went 5-4 in singles at the tournament, highlighted by second- and third-place individual finishes by Marcela Brandao and Jill Furlong, respectively. Brandao and Furlong, however, have since transferred from Western.

Last spring, Kane’s men’s team made it to the semifinals of the Summit League tournament before losing to eventual conference runner-up Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Gino Octa, a native of Ontario, Canada, joins the Leathernecks this fall from a traditional tennis powerhouse, the University of Utah, where he played at No. 5 and No. 6 singles and No. 1 doubles as a freshman last season.

“He’s a real nice addition,” Kane said of Octa. “He’s a very consistent player, so he’ll be a tough guy to beat in the middle of my lineup.

“We also have Mitch Granger coming in from Grayslake High School,” Kane added. “He’s been ripping it up in the summer, just beating great players right and left…. both of these guys really want to get good and be successful in college. I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Brandon Meeker, the No. 1 player for Galesburg High School last year and a three-time state qualifier, is the third promising new addition to Kane’s men’s squad this fall.

“He’s a pretty dominant player,” Kane said of Meeker, who captured conference and sectional titles last season for the Silver Streaks, and finished 30-5 overall after going 3-2 at the state tournament. “He’s going to help us, and have a shot to make our starting lineup with a good effort in the fall.”

Four returning veterans will battle Octa, Granger and Meeker for starting positions: seniors Jim Capalbo and Mandela Shepard, junior Patrick Hammers, and sophomore Ben Yue. Hammers, an all-conference selection last season, went 5-1 against Summit League foes at No. 3 singles.

“We lost three of our six starters to graduation,” Kane said. “We’re still looking right now for a top-of-the-lineup kind of guy. I have some good prospects, and I’m optimistic, but we have to fill that (top) spot to make us an outstanding team.

“We finished in a tie for second last year during the regular season, and we got the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs, so we had a good team last year,” Kane continued. “If we can kind of improve on that a little bit, we’ll be right in the thick of things. So I’m pretty optimistic about the men.

“For the women, pretty much, we have a lot of spots that will be filled this year. We’ve lost a lot of players, so we have to fill those spots.”

 

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Western tennis ready for new look on the court