Photo Courtesy of CSU Athletics

May 6, 2019

Men’s tennis serves a strong finish

By Mike Trivisonno

The Cleveland State University men’s tennis team ended regular season play winning eight consecutive matches. In fact, it ended the regular season April 20 with a commanding 6-1 victory over the University of Illinois at Chicago, completing a perfect 6-0 conference record to crown itself Horizon League Regular Season champions.

For head coach Brian Etzkin, it’s his sixth regular season title as head coach. The Vikings finished the regular season with an overall record of 17-7, earning themselves the No. 1 seed for the Horizon League tournament.

“This was the first time in a long time that we were able to post a clean record in league play, and that was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, so it feels good to accomplish that,” Etzkin said after the win over UIC on April 20. “We still have more goals that we would like to see through, so we will get back to the practice courts.”

After starting the regular season winning just two of their first six matches, the Vikings turned things around swiftly, winning their next five matches. That was the start of a dominant run over the next two months from several different Vikings.

At the beginning of the spring season, Etzkin tries to schedule tough opponents that will challenge his players early on. He said he believes starting the season playing against some of the top teams in the area has helped shape them to a 17-win, conference championship team.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a slow start for us, as we pushed ourselves with the level of competition that we faced,” he explained. “This tough non-league slate helped to prepare us for the Horizon League portion of our schedule, which ended up helping us to a 6-0 league record.”

Sophomore Matthew Terry recorded his 50th career singles win during his victory April 19 against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. That win put him in an elite category as he became the first Viking to ever reach 50 career singles win as a sophomore.

Freshman Clark Bilinovich earned his 28th singles win of the year during the season finale against UIC April 20, placing him tied for second place on the Cleveland State single-season wins list. He finished the regular season leading the team in singles wins, earning an overall record of 28-8.

Junior Nico Mostardi and senior Benjamin Slade won their doubles match 6-3 against UIC to close out the regular season, making that their 24th career doubles win, placing them tied for fifth place on the school’s all-time doubles wins list.

On top of that, the Horizon League honored the team with multiple postseason awards April 25. Mostardi earned Horizon League Player of the Year award for the second consecutive season after posting a 23-10 overall record during the regular season.

Etzkin was named Horizon League Coach of the Year, making that the fourth time he has held that honor. He is now just the third coach in Horizon League history to collect at least four coach of the year awards.
The message for Etzkin’s team heading into the NCAA tournament is simple: take one match at a time and out-compete the opponent on the court. They take on Ohio State on May 3.

“Don’t take anything for granted because every team we play will be talented,” Etzkin said. “We need to try to out-compete our opponent physically, mentally and emotionally.”


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