Coming off of a record-setting season, the 2010-11 Wisconsin men’s tennis team had big shoes to fill. In 2010, the University of Wisconsin was selected to enter the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season, a school-record, and managed to make it to its first-ever sweet 16 appearance.
When the 2011 season started, head coach Greg Van Emburgh knew it was going to be a rebuilding year for his young team. The Badgers went from three seniors and three freshmen on their 2009-10 roster to a 2010-11 season where the team was predominantly freshmen.
The lack of experience seemed to be the Badger’s achilles’ heel.
In January, the Badgers began their season with two wins and three losses before losing their first conference match against Minnesota, the team that would end their season months later in the Big Ten Tournament.
After its first conference match, Wisconsin seemed to hit a high note with two wins against Marquette and UIC, 6-1 and 7-0, respectively. However, the happiness was short lived, as the Badgers struggled to continue their winning ways.
Throughout the season, consistency seemed to be a major problem for the Badgers as a whole. They would win a game, and then lose two. Lose a game, and then win two. Not once in the season did they win more than two consecutive games.
When March rolled around, Wisconsin ended up claiming the No. 6 seed for the Big Ten Tournament. With a win against No. 11 seed Penn State, Wisconsin was able to continue tournament play against No. 3 seed Minnesota. But their tournament play was short-lived, as Wisconsin fell early to its conference rivals.
Although they struggled as a team, Marek Michalicka, Billy Bertha, Rodney Carey and Fredrik Ask proved that individually it was a different story.
The seven freshmen that played as Badgers this season gained valuable experience that is needed for the success of their future seasons. Two of the freshman, the doubles duo of Carey and Ask, worked their way into the UW system perfectly and ended their season by working their way to the No. 2 doubles slot.
Bertha, a sophomore, is known for his passionate, fiery play and will lead next year’s team. Bertha and Michalicka played the entire season at the No. 1 doubles spot and together they gained the lone win of the day in the Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota, ending their season with an 18-5 doubles record together.
Whether in doubles play with Bertha or singles play, Michalicka led his team by example with his experience. Optimistic and focused, Michalicka was spoken very highly of during his time at Wisconsin and ended up earning Big Ten honors for his play. His team-high record of 17-6 in the No. 1 singles slot and his 8-2 record in Big Ten play earned him a spot on the first team All-Big Ten team as well as the recognition of being a Badgers’ Big Ten sportsmanship honoree.
While his time at the UW is coming to a close, Michalicka’s tennis career is still booming. On Tuesday, the NCAA selection show aired and Michalicka looked to get his third-straight NCAA singles berth. Ranked No. 57 in the nation, UW’s senior captain got what he wanted and was selected as one of 64 singles players to compete in the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Tennis Championships.
Although the season has come to a close, with such a young team, you haven’t seen the last of many of these Badgers. Van Emburgh is proud of his team and how far it has come and looks forward to his growing future with such a young team.