In contrast to the usually tame atmosphere of collegiate and professional tennis, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team is set to enter Big Ten play as the loud little brother trying to prove itself.
The Badgers’ last match against No. 36 Drake signified a shift in what’s to come for the team. While in years past, a matchup against Wisconsin would be a welcome sight (Wisconsin fared 12-32 in Big Ten play from 2012-15), this season’s team offers a challenge to opponents.
The Badgers defeated the Bulldogs in their third ranked-victory of the season, following wins over No. 23 Minnesota and No. 34 Princeton. Each of these matches ended 4-3 in favor of the Badgers and showcased their boisterous persona.
Each match for Wisconsin men’s tennis begins with the team gathering in a circle, arm in arm, chanting to psych each other up. Throughout the course of a match, teammates will gather courtside to cheer one another on, yelling praises.
The Badgers have historically been a middle-tier program, never placing higher than second place in the conference final standings during nearly 81 years of formal Big Ten play.
But Wisconsin is in the midst of a transition with first-year head coach Danny Westerman and has their first blue-chip prospect in school history set to join the team next fall. Their current record is the best they’ve held up to this point in a season since 1973 and they’ve reached their highest ranking, at 31 nationally, in more than five years.
The potential for the Badgers to make the 2015 Big Ten season historic is for the taking.
Six teams in the Big Ten are ranked within the top 50 teams nationally and the Badgers will have to face each of them. Only Iowa falls out of the exclusive top-50 club which the Badgers will face.
While it is still early to outright declare how each of those matches will end, given the team’s play so far, the Badgers certainly stand a fighting chance.
First-singles player Josef Dodridge (9-2) and third-singles player Lamar Remy (8-4) have bolstered Wisconsin thus far. The two wreaked havoc as a the first-doubles pairing, where they boast a 9-2 record, and their individual performances haven’t been very far off.
Chema Carranza (6-0 fifth singles, 4-1 sixth singles) and Alexander Kokorev (6-5 second singles) have brought up the back end as well. They’ve solidified themselves as some of the most exciting players on the team and consistently perform to expectations.
Kokorev, coming off significant knee troubles from last season, played one of the best individual matches of the season against No. 2 Cameron Norrie of TCU back in February despite dropping the contest 6-1, 7-5.
Osgar O’Hoisin (8-2 fourth singles) rounds out a solid starting six for the Badgers who could spoil victories for the traditional powerhouses of the Big Ten.
With a quiet week separating the beginning of their Big Ten campaign next Friday against Iowa, the downtime will serve as a lull before the storm for the conference’s new, noisy neighbors.