Tennis sets sights on its first year in the Summit League
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 09:01
It will be months before Nebraska weather will allow any tennis outdoors, but on Sunday the UNO men’s tennis team got their season underway indoors at the Hanscom Brandeis Tennis Center, and the women aren’t far behind.
The men are coming off a season in which they finished 6-13. The ladies went 7-12 in 2011-12, but at one point were 3-11 before winning four of their last five matches.
It’s a new season with many new opponents and many fresh faces, but the goals remain the same.
“Getting better, improving each day,” Head Coach Mike Saniuk said. “Building better players to increase the program.”
Saniuk took over as the head man of both programs just over a year and a half ago. He led the men’s team in 2010-11, a year after being an assistant on both staffs.
Saniuk played his college tennis at UNK, earning a letter all four years of his career. Twice he helped the Lopers reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II tournament.
Saniuk is a native Nebraskan, hailing from Bellevue. He graduated from Gross Catholic High School where he and the Cougars won the 2000 Nebraska Class B state championship.
That championship pedigree and Saniuk’s work in the game made him the standout choice for the UNO tennis programs.
As the men’s and women’s teams progress towards full Division I participation, Saniuk says it’s all about building a team rather than finding a few special talents.
“I hope that I don’t just have to rely on one player,” Saniuk said. “I think there are players on each team that have the ability to step up. It’s just a matter of if they will.”
The Mavs were selected sixth out of six teams in the preseason Summit League poll. Thus, it would seem Saniuk’s work is cut out for him.
But no. 1 singles player from last season Carlos Ramos Salazar returns, and he’ll be helped by the additions of senior Matt Frost and junior Eric McKnight.
Both Frost and McKnight spent last season in redshirts.
“Carlos Ramos Salazar should be one of the biggest leaders on the court and off the court,” Saniuk said. “Matt Frost, it’s his senior year, and I think he’ll step up and lead on the court as well.”
Ramos Salazar returns from a season in which he went 4-15 in singles play as Omaha’s premiere no. 1 player.
In doubles play he went 8-10 including 4-4 with partner Anthony Forcucci and 4-6 with Peter Greteman.
Frost is back as one of the most accomplished players in program history. Currently he is tied with Chase Petersen (2008-2010) for the school record in wins with 19.
In his career Frost has put up a 19-22 record, going 7-7 as a freshman, 3-8 as a sophomore and 9-7 as a junior. Frost has played in the no. 1 singles position 9 times in his career, achieving a winning record of 5-4.
In addition to his success in singles, Frost also holds the record for the best doubles record and most doubles wins in a season at 12-6.
On the women’s team UNO graduated four seniors and had just one junior return. The Mavs have just one upperclassman to go with three sophomores and three freshmen.
Unlike the men’s team, Saniuk will have to look to his youth to provide some of the leadership.
“On the women’s side, my freshman Molly (Matricardi), I think she’s gonna be a great asset to us on the court,” Saniuk said. “There’s a couple of other girls, too. I think Rachel Pierson will be able to step up and help out in doubles and in singles.”
Molly Matricardi comes to Omaha out of McKinney Boyd High School in McKinney, Texas. In high school Matricardi was a four-year letterwinner and a 5A state regional qualifier multiple times.
Rachel Pierson is in her second season with the Mavs coming off a year in which she played singles normally in the no. 4 or 5 position. Pierson went 5-12 in singles and 4-15 in doubles.
Rachel is the sister of freshman Emily Pierson who joins the program this year. The Piersons hail from Red Oak, Iowa where they won back-to-back state championships as a doubles team.
Despite the short roster, the women were picked to finish slightly better than the men. The Mavs were selected seventh out of eight teams in the conference preseason poll.