Jan. 24, 2014
BEAUMONT - Scott Shankles has high hopes for his young Lamar men's tennis team, and he'll be throwing them into intense competition early as the Cardinals are set to open the season at 12th-ranked Texas A&M on Saturday before returning home for a pair of matches against Alcorn State on Sunday.
"We're very excited to get started, and it's going to be a huge challenge for us Saturday," Shankles said. "We're very young and inexperienced, but we have a lot of talent. If we can overcome some nerves in the beginning, I think we can have a very good match against A&M."
The Cards likely boast of one of the youngest rosters in the country, featuring four freshmen, three sophomores and one junior for 2014. The freshmen each have big expectations this season as a number are expected to be standout performers for the Red and White.
"For half of the team, this is their first taste of team matches," Shankles explained. "We're going to get a good dose of matches in for the first weekend, so that will be a plus for them. I think we just need to keep a good attitude about everything and fight to the end. I think it's a good chance for the team to progress."
Chief among them might be German import Michael Feucht, who is coming off of a stellar fall campaign, running off five consecutive victories to begin his career en route to finishing with a team-best 7-2 record. He was also an accomplished doubles player with fellow freshman Jeandre Hoogenboezem. The duo posted a 6-3 mark for the fall, and Hoogenboezem also proved to be no slouch in singles, ending 5-3.
Rounding out the newcomers are Juuso Laitinen, who redshirted last year, and Nikita Lis. The duo each collected a trio of singles wins in the fall.
, fresh off an All-Southland campaign in 2013, leads the sophomore group, where he is joined by Texas products in Trey Crysel
and Steven McMullan
The lone junior is Mikko Rajamaki, who notched five singles victories last season, including a pair in Southland play.
Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 2-0 mark and will play UTSA prior to Saturday's 4 p.m. start with LU.
On Sunday, the Cards will return to Thompson Family Tennis Center for a doubleheader of their own, going up against Alcorn State twice, beginning a 9 a.m. The weekend marks the return of dual matches to the fortress of both LU tennis teams, as neither has played a home match since renovations began midway through the 2013 spring season.
"It's always fun to play matches at home, and I anticipate that the guys will be excited and probably a little nervous," Shankles said. "I think we'll get a good crowd out here on Sunday, and hopefully there will be a lot of good tennis."