The seniors shined bright on Senior Day, helping DePaul finish the regular season with a bang as the men’s tennis team defeated Xavier – one of the three undefeated teams in conference play – 6-1. The win brings DePaul to a 5-0 conference record and 10-12 record overall.
DePaul came out of the gate swinging, winning two of the three double matches. Vito Tonejc and Luke Wassanar lost their doubles set 6-2, but wins by the pairs of Tripp Tuff / Marino Jakic (6-3) and Jona Gitschel / Leon Huck (6-2) put DePaul over the edge to start the match.
Transitioning to the single matches, the team did not let up, annihilating everything Xavier swung at them. The seniors led the way, starting with Wassenar winning his set 4-6, 6-3 and 6-1, giving DePaul their first points. Tuff followed suit, winning his singles match 6-4 and 6-3. Tonejc put the icing on the cake, winning his set 6-3, 6-7 (9-11) and 6-4 to secure the victory. The team is now heading for the conference tournament next week in South Carolina as a top seed with a chance to repeat as potential champions.
“[Xavier] was a big win for us, ”head coach Matt Brothers said. “Xavier has been playing well and they are undefeated, so we were not blowing them off by any means. It was a fantastic win for Vito, Trip and Luke. All the seniors come through with wins and secure the team win. It doesn’t get much better than that. “
Wassenar played his final match at home knowing the end was coming. He wanted to make sure he ended his career at home on a good note.
“The match had a certain energy,” Wassenar said. “We wanted to win not just because we wanted to, but because it was senior day, our last match at home. I was a little nervous, but I’m happy that all the guys pulled it out. “
For Tonejc, the idea of playing his final match at home has not sunk in yet. But he did come into the match prepared so have some fun in his last go around.
“There was always a little bit more pressure on this match because we seniors wanted to win, especially on senior day,” Tonejc said. “But I also remembered before the match that this is my last regular season college match so I tried to have some fun, hit some balls that I usually won’t, loosen my arm. I saw Wassenar and Tuff win their matches so I knew I had to win mine. ”
Wassenar and Tonejc believe their defining moment of their careers was accomplishing the ultimate goal of winning the conference championship last season. Although Tuff agrees with their sentiments, he believes that an additional defining moment changed his life in preparation for the later achievements.
“When I found out I had two extra years of eligibility (one redshirt and an additional year due to Covid), I knew that I had to make a change with how I was approaching the game,” Tuff said. “It was a second chance. At one point I thought my career was over with Covid but all of the sudden I had two extra years. I didn’t want those to go to waste. “
With the final three seniors of the original “Band of Brothers” crew signing off for the final time at home, they now focus their attention on the last conference tournament they will ever play in their collegiate careers. They would love to go out with a bang by winning the championship, but they highlighted how important it would be for the younger guys on the team to get that experience.
“It would be great for the young guys,” Tonejc said. “I think the fact that we are older than them is good because they’ll know what the discipline is so we can keep them in place a little bit. But they are great players and they helped us. ”
Due to the senior’s championship experience last season, the Brothers highlighted the importance of his veteran leadership to lead the team to victory as they make a run for the title.
“[The seniors’] experience is going to be vital for us, ”Brothers said. “These young guys have not experienced this yet, but their work ethic and leadership is what is going to give us another great opportunity to bring home another championship. It will be exciting. ”