RETURN: Ignacio Poncio directs the ball to the back corner of his opponent's box. (photo provided)
RETURN: Ignacio Poncio directs the ball to the back corner of his opponent’s box. (photo provided)

After a tough start to the season, the men’s tennis team is focusing on upcoming conference match-ups, with their eyes on a top-three finish.

They compiled an early conference record of 2-1, dropping their first Crossroads League match to RV Marian University, who has won conference the past two years and is a favorite for the regular season title. Head coach Kreg Eckert said he is also looking to have at least three players mentioned on the all-conference team.

Eckert and co-captain Ignacio Poncho, who was recognized by the Crossroads League last year, both said this is both attainable and challenging. The Foresters are the youngest team in the conference with their top six spots filled by equal parts freshmen and sophomores.

“I am very pleased with the contributions from freshmen Rodrigo Manzo and David Baranowski,” said Coach Eckert.

Manzo, who is from Mexico, is playing in the number-two singles slot, while Poland native Baranowski is the Foresters’ number-four singles player.

With tough conference play ahead, Eckert said double’s play must improve. To meet this need, he said his team will be focusing on being more aggressive at the net in upcoming practices.

“This following week, we are playing really tough colleges (IWU and Goshen),” said Ponchio. “From the results of previous play, we believe that both matches will be very even and tough. One thing I’m sure about is that we have the players to beat them.”

Although wins are great, Coach Eckert said he always makes sure that his players walk away from his team with more on their minds than just tennis.

“I am here to make sure that my players walk away as not only better players but as better teammates and also as more respectable young men,” he said. “One of our main focuses this year is learning to show Christ in service to each other, to the university and also to the community.”

The Foresters host Goshen College Sept. 22 at 4:30 p.m.

The women’s team is also seeking a top-three finish is the conference. Kathleen Morrical said her team’s main goal this season is to beat Spring Arbor, who finished close behind them last year and who they will face Sept. 27.

The Foresters have set themselves up early for a successful conference season. After their first four matches against Crossroads League opponents, they’re sitting at 3-1.

“One match that will be very tough will be Marian,” Morrical said. “We’re are working very hard this weekend at ITA regionals preparing and practicing what we need to work on in order to beat Marian.”

Morrical believes that doubles will play a big part in their upcoming matches.

“We need to work on getting two in the box for doubles, and we need to work on sticking to the pattern coach has been having us practice for singles”.

Along with hosting Marian University, other upcoming conference matches for the Foresters include hosting Goshen College Sept. 22 at 4:30 p.m. and Bethel College Sept. 24 at 10:30 a.m.