Will the Red Wolves rise to the challenge?
The Indiana University East men's tennis program plans to build on what was a "development" season during the 2011-12 school year with a "challenge" season this spring. The Red Wolves' first serve for the spring season is March 10 against Thomas More College at Glen Miller Park.
"The men's season last year was a developmental phase for the team," says second-year IU East coach Erskine Ratchford. "With a full roster of men's players, we began the process of establishing the team and players as an effective force in singles and doubles matches. Match play experience, development of playing skills, shot selection, court coverage ability, point construction capabilities and competing to control and win points and games were emphasized as the foundation for the team's players.
"This spring 2013 season the required performance bar has been raised higher. This season's men's team will be challenged to take last year's knowledge and experience and apply those things to their game and competitive abilities in a higher level of competitive matches."
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR
Record: 6-13 (3-5 during fall season)
Conference: 2-3 in Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, fourth place
Postseason: Reached semifinals of KIAC tournament
Adam Derengowski, redshirt junior
Adam has two years of experience near the top of the lineup. Adam won three No. 2 singles matches and was part of six wins at No. 1 doubles last spring.
Nick Frank, redshirt junior
Nick was one of two players to compete in the singles lineup in all of IU East's matches last spring. Nick won five singles matches last spring, with four of the wins at No. 6 singles.
Justin Judd, junior
Justin played primarily No. 2 doubles and No. 4 singles. Justin had a winning record in singles in KIAC play, and he posted a 3-1 record when he played No. 3 doubles.
Ty Butler, sophomore
Ty was IU East's No. 1 singles player as a freshman. He became IU East's first men's tennis all-conference honoree after leading the Red Wolves with six singles wins and seven doubles victories. Ty finished strong, with eight wins in 12 singles and doubles matches over the last two weeks of the regular season.
Derek Blank, sophomore
Derek is a skilled shotmaker who earned five singles wins as a freshman, including a 3-3 record at No. 5 singles and a 3-1 mark in conference matches.
Erskine Ratchford, head coach
Erskine guided the IU East men's team to a six-win improvement (fall and spring matches) in his first year. The men's and women's teams improved by 20 total wins under Erskine's guidance.
Josh Hollingsworth, redshirt junior
Josh transferred from Indiana University in Bloomington to IU East for the final academic semester of his college career and should add some firepower to the top part of the Red Wolves' lineup. Josh compiled a 76-19 record at Richmond (Ind.) High School and was a three-time all-state honoree.
Derek Zimmers, redshirt junior
Derek transferred to IU East after playing two seasons at Hanover College (Ind.) and brings college-level experience to the Red Wolves roster . Derek too part in five singles matches and 21 doubles matches during his most recent season at Hanover.
Zeth Ellis, redshirt freshman
Zeth joins the active roster after redshirting the 2011-12 season. Zeth has a powerful serve and posted a 23-3 No. 1 doubles record as a high school senior.
Connor Kramer, freshman
Connor is expected to be a regular in the IU East lineup this spring after playing No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles for much of the fall season. Connor compiled a 70-15 record at Eastern Hancock High School (Ind.) and was two-time team MVP.
Ethan Taulbee, freshman
Ethan is a top-notch student who will push for a spot in the IU East lineup. Ethan was a two-time all-conference honoree at Preble Shawnee High School (Ohio).
THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH
* Step by step: IU East was fifth in the KIAC in the program's inaugural season and fourth in the conference last spring. The logical progression would be a leap into the league's top three. Coach Ratchford says a top three KIAC finish is one of the team's primary goals.
* Road map to success: The Red Wolves are 8-7 at home and at neutral sites over the past two years (fall and spring), but 3-17 in road matches. If IU East can pick up its road winning percentage, look for the team's overall record to make a big jump.
* Finding the middle ground: IU East's best individual records last year were at No. 1 and No. 6 singles. The Red Wolves seek more success in the middle of the lineup this season.
THREE MATCHES TO WATCH
* March 17 vs. Indiana University Southeast - The Red Wolves will find out how much they've closed the gap on the KIAC's top programs when they take on the Grenadiers in the KIAC opener. IU Southeast is a perennial contender for the KIAC title.
* April 19-20 vs. Indiana Wesleyan University, Indiana University Southeast and Taylor University - IU East travels to Indiana Wesleyan for perhaps the most challenging weekend in the program's history with three matches in 24 hours against three strong programs.
* April 24 at Earlham College - The Red Wolves conclude the regular season with a stiff test against their crosstown opponent. The Quakers have advanced to the last two NCAA Division III national tournaments and have been ranked in the NCAA Division III's top 30 this season.
THREE MILESTONES IN REACH
* The Red Wolves have increased the program's win total every year and expect to improve on the program record of six spring wins.
* Several stretches of the schedule offer a realistic opportunity for the program's first three-match winning streak.
* If the Red Wolves reach their team goals, the individual records of six singles wins in a season and seven doubles wins in a season also should fall.
RED WOLVES IN THE RANKINGS
4th - IU East's ranking in the KIAC men's tennis preseason poll.
FOLLOW THE RED WOLVES
IU East men's tennis home page
IU East men's tennis 2013 roster
IU East men's tennis 2013 schedule
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Follow IU East Red Wolves on Twitter
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