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On campus

IPFW aims to be top tennis program

Burns

– From the outset, when IPFW first joined the Summit League in the 2007-08 academic year, the Mastodons women’s tennis program has dabbled at the edge of domination within the conference.

Since its second-place finish behind Oral Roberts in 2008, IPFW has won the Summit League’s regular-season championship four times and finished second twice. There has been no such thing as third place or lower.

In the six seasons it has played women’s tennis in the league, IPFW has produced five players of the year. Amy Recht won it four years in a row, beginning in 2008, and senior and No. 1 singles player Anita Henestrosa received the honor this season.

Three players – Recht, Henestrosa and Ingrid Ballus – were named the Summit League’s newcomer of the year. And Eric Burns, in 2010 and 2011, was the coach of the year.

But all that said – all that has been done – IPFW (23-7) will still be chasing history when it plays Michigan (21-5) in the first round of the NCAA tournament a week from today in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Much like the familiar NCAA basketball tournament, the big schools from the power conferences also dominate the NCAA tennis tourney. This year’s rankings are no exception, with Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M and Southern California filling out the top five. Big Ten regular-season champion Michigan comes in at No. 6.

Except for being at the top of the Summit League standings, IPFW is nowhere to be found. But Burns is working on that, too.

“It really gets our name out there and gets people in the tennis world understanding who we are and what level we’re at,” he said of the Mastodons playing in their third NCAA tournament in four years.

IPFW broke into the NCAA’s high-rent district with its first tournament appearance in 2010, when it lost to Notre Dame 4-0. A year later, the Mastodons again played in the NCAA tourney, and again lost 4-0, to Northwestern.

But Burns said people noticed the alphabet school from the Summit League.

“When we went to Notre Dame the first time, I don’t think Notre Dame really knew much about us,” Burns said. “But we were competitive in that match, and when the match was over, we had people congratulating us at the end. Notre Dame fans were like, ‘Wow, you’ve got a pretty good team, even though we beat you pretty handily; you have some good kids and you have a good program.’ So I feel like every time we go to one of these places, it’s kind of like a tour to gain respect, and each time we get a little bit more. Eventually that’s going to pay off with either getting recruits, or maybe we’re going to get the people we need to get over the hump and, maybe not beat a top 16 program, but definitely get respect in the rankings.

“That’s a lot of incentive for us to go. No Summit League team has ever gone and even won a set, let alone a match. To go do that would be some history for us.”

Tech coach honored

Indiana Tech women’s tennis coach Raquel Vescovi was named the WHAC Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to a 5-11 record. Last season, Tech had just one win.

Manchester wins

Manchester University recently won its first HCAC regular-season softball title and will play in the HCAC tournament that begins today in North Manchester.

Steve Warden covers area colleges for The Journal Gazette. He may be reached by email at stwarden@jg.net, by phone at 260-461-8477, or by fax at 260-461-8648.

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