When the Valparaiso University men’s tennis team takes the court this weekend to begin the 2020 spring season, it will do so with a roster that features a unique blend of youth and experience.
The eight-player squad is comprised exclusively of seniors and freshmen – five student-athletes set to begin the final stretch of their collegiate careers and three others poised to experience collegiate competition for the first time.
After playing with young teams that included just one senior each of the last two seasons, Valpo will have its largest senior class since 2012 this spring.
“Our senior leadership is very strong this year, and that is the glue that is holding the team together,” head coach Jim Daugherty said. “The freshmen continue to work hard to improve in every way. I expect every member of the team to make a positive contribution this year. Everyone is going to receive playing time.”
It would be fair for Daugherty to start thinking about what this season means to him and reflecting on his accomplishments, as he plans to retire after 35 years in his position at season’s end. However, Jim Daugherty has never made it about him, instead keeping the focus on the players on the court and what he can do to help his student-athletes. Even as he prepares to author this last chapter, Daugherty’s perspective is as selfless as ever.
“I’m so impressed by the way our seniors have worked hard to fill the gaps left by the departure of a couple top players from last year,” Daugherty said. “The freshmen will give us great depth, making us solid from top to bottom. I expect to see some great things from them this year. I feel a great sense of ‘team,’ which should help us through some close battles.”
This year’s senior class has helped Valpo win 46 matches over the last three seasons, including a 15-4 aggregate record in league matches over one year of Horizon League action and two seasons of Summit League play. Seniors Brandon Ancona (Belvidere, Ill. / Rockford Christian), Franklin Brozovich (Fort Gratiot, Mich. / Port Huron Northern), Gabriel Carvajal (Pembroke Pines, Fla. / Broward Virtual School [Florida Atlantic]), Daniel Langston (Ponca City, Okla. / Ponca City) and Brian Pecyna (Glen Ellyn, Ill. / Homeschooled) have combined for 233 career singles victories.
The defending Summit League Player of the Year, Ancona was also named the 2018-19 Valparaiso University Male Athlete of the Year as voted on by his fellow student-athletes. He ranks ninth in program history with 66 career singles victories and is tied for eighth with 56 career doubles wins.
Pecyna has 46 career singles wins and 43 doubles triumphs, while Langston is close behind in singles with 45 career victories.
“Brandon Ancona continues to lead the team at the top and shows no sign of letting up,” Daugherty said. “Brian Pecyna has been relentless at the top and has proven that he can get the job done. I am also very proud of the work seniors Gabriel Carvajal, Daniel Langston and Franklin Brozovich have put in this offseason. It’s not always easy as a senior, yet they keep putting the pedal to the metal.”
The freshman trio that has joined the program is comprised of Andrej Kalenic (Belgrade, Serbia / Kreativno Pero), Philipp Leithold (Esslingen, Germany / Theodor-Huess Gymnasium) and Oscar Mendoza (Guayaquil, Ecuador / Interamerican Academy). All three made their debuts during the fall and finished with singles records of .500 or better.
Valpo will begin the season with a trip to Indianapolis to battle Butler on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT at the Butler Bubble. The home slate gets underway on Sunday as Western Michigan comes to town for a noon start at The Courts of Northwest Indiana. The team will face tough tests immediately to kick off a challenging nonconference slate, as Butler finished 21-7 a year ago and Western Michigan went 18-9 on the way to an NCAA Tournament berth.