Loss of Bortz leaves void at top for men’s tennis

By Kate Fratar

While there are still some questions left unanswered about men’s tennis this season, the squad has all the raw materials it needs to rebound from last spring’s slump and post a successful year.

Last season ended with a bit of a letdown for the Maroons after the team made great strides in 2005 to go from sitting at the bottom of the UAA to being national competitors. The 2006 campaign closed with Chicago slipping from a third-place finish in the league championships down to fifth, while first singles powerhouse—and 2005 All-American—Ward Bortz (A.B. ’06) was unable to match his previous performance at NCAAs and dropped out in the first round.

Heading into the new season with a fortified lineup and a deeper bench, the South Siders have a shot at returning to their level of dominance from two years ago. At this point, it is still unclear who will replace Bortz in the top slot of the lineup, but with a number of talented players returning to the roster, there are a lot of possibilities for Chicago.

“We’re definitely going to be deeper than we were last year,” head coach Marty Perry said. “You can be strong at the top, but if you’re not deep, it can get you the same distance in the race.”

That individual talent has been fine-tuned for the past month, with training focused on developing the best tactics and game strategy that complement each player’s personal strengths. What has emerged in practice is a team that looks like it has the skills to take down the competition, leaving some of the places on the lineup to sort themselves out over the course of the season.

“We don’t really drop off in talent,” Perry said. “When we play in practice, everyone pushes each other. Most of the sets are close, whether it’s the number-two guy playing the number-seven guy, it’s just really close.”

The Maroons get a chance to work out the kinks this weekend when they host the season opener against a made-over UI—Springfield today and then square off against UW-—Green Bay tomorrow.

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