Back from a bruising weeklong road trip, the No. 38 Wisconsin men’s tennis team will host in-state rival Marquette tonight at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in the first bout of a five-match homestand.
After leaping to an impressive 7-1 start to the season, the Badgers have since fallen to tough opponents in then-ranked No. 41 Texas Tech, No. 17 Texas A&M, and No. 41 Notre Dame.
“We lost a couple close matches,” head coach Greg Van Emburgh said. “When you go outdoors you put yourself out there because we play a lot of indoor matches.
“I feel like we had good chances to win those matches — we didn’t — but I think we can build from that. I think you want to play a really good, strong, competitive schedule and we’re doing that and that’s why we’re still ranked in the top 40.”
On paper, righting themselves against Marquette may seem easier than how reality would have it.
Last week, for the first time in program history, Marquette established itself on the ITA national rankings at No. 70 after beginning the season 11-0, while senior Dusan Medan became the program’s highest ranked player in a decade after earning the No. 84 spot.
However, two consecutive losses that have since followed the win streak dropped the Golden Eagles from the polls.
Senior Michael Dierberger, who characterizes the Marquette squad as naturally excited, believes the Golden Eagles will arrive in Madison determined to recapture some recognition and storm the rankings from there.
“We know that they come fired up,” Dierberger said. “This is my fourth year. I’ve played them many times, and they always are really excited. They want to prove that they’re better than what their rankings are.
“Every shot they get against a team ranked a lot higher, they’re going to come out even more ready than usual.”
If a chance to regain some national attention wasn’t enough for MU, then the mere fact of a rekindled in-state rivalry should. Wisconsin currently owns a 12-game winning streak over Marquette.
Junior Marek Michalicka knows the Golden Eagles will come prepared and determined to turn up the volume in the match.
“It’s an in-state match, which you’re always fired up for — especially these guys (Marquette), they want to beat us so bad,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they won’t play down, they will be fired up and yell and scream — basically they will try to do anything to win, so we just have to be ready for that.”
In singles, Wisconsin has enjoyed solid play, sporting two ranked players in senior Moritz Baumann (No. 13) and Michalicka (No. 21). Dierberger and Michalicka each have yet to lose, going 4-0 and 8-0, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Badgers have experienced shortcomings with the doubles over the last month, losing the doubles point in three consecutive matches before snapping the streak against Notre Dame.
Despite jumping to a 2-0 lead in that match, though, NDU claimed the victory in singles play.
Against the Golden Eagles, the Badgers will once again face a challenge at doubles, as Marquette has only lost the doubles point once all season.
Van Emburgh acknowledged that though doubles did perform well against Notre Dame, securing the doubles point does not guarantee victory, as evidenced by the loss.
Against an excited team like Marquette, Van Emburgh knows the team must play a complete match.
“They’re a good team. They’re going to try and come in here and take a shot at us,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready for that, and we can’t take them for granted or hope that someone else is going to win down the line. Everybody in singles and doubles have to be ready to take care of their matches.”