Opinion: Students need to start paying attention to ASU men's tennis

In its first season in a decade, the ASU men's tennis team is making waves already

After a 10-year hiatus, the ASU men's tennis team has already cemented itself as a worthy competitor within the Pac-12. As a freshly reinstated team, it's imperative for students to show support as the budding program continues to grow. 

Poised at a comfortable 5th place in the Pac-12, the No. 34 ranked team heads to the Pac-12 Championship Tournament as the sixth seed. 

Although the end of the season is quickly approaching, students and fans have a responsibility to support the team. Arguably one of the most successful Sun Devil squads this year, and definitely the most surprising, it's time the tennis team gets its due. 

The ASU men's tennis team had been cut in 2008, and since then, it has been an uphill battle to restore it. To revive the program, ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson made a sizable donation of $1 million and hired a skilled head coach, Matt Hill

After getting the wheels in motion, the next step was putting a team together. 

Hill developed a team of nine outstanding tennis players, most from overseas. The roster includes nine young men from nine different countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany and England, with only one player from the U.S. 

While coming to college from out-of-state is hard enough, coming from out-of-country is an absolute life change. However, this group of young men have already found their place here at ASU.

For coach Hill to develop such a cohesive team in such a short amount of time is reason enough to be excited for the program's future.

Although a small program, home tennis matches have already garnered a decent fanbase. Between huge wins and community outreach, the team has brought in sizable crowds. Still, to attract even more attention, the coaching staff and players have implemented a few incentives.

 They've established the Sun Devil Ball Kid Program, which allows children the opportunity to retrieve balls during matches. Additionally, the team began the Sorority Challenge, bringing in 100-plus sorority women to the matches each week. If nothing else, the team has great marketing strategies. 

"They all love big crowds because in Europe, they never played in front of anyone but their families at large multi-court tournaments," said Sophia Briseno, tennis reporter for The State Press

The attention pays off in dividends. The change from individual play to team play in front of a crowd has proven to be a positive influence on the international athletes. 

"The teams really adapted to playing in front of a crowd," Briseno said. 

That said, they need more support. As a team that's been consistently successful throughout the whole season, the tennis team deserves more interest from the Sun Devil fanbase. 

French sophomore Makey Rakotomalala has had an impressive season, going 13-9 overall and 4-3 in conference play. Italian freshman Andrea Bolla has seen his fair share of victories as well, reaching the No. 45 rank for his double play with Ratotomalala.

The success doesn't stop there. Michael Geerts, senior captain from Belgium, has flourished under the spotlight throughout his first and only collegiate season, reaching as high as No. 20 in ITA rankings. With ASU support behind him, Geerts took down both the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in the ITA. 

"The fact that he started college tennis this season and that he can come take down the number one player in the country was amazing," Briseno said.

Even with Geerts departure from the team after the season ends, the need for student support doesn't stop. If students want our athletic programs to develop and to establish ourselves as an athletic powerhouse, they must maintain the excitement that brings these matches up to another level. 

"You can tell that the crowd helps win matches for individual players and the teams," Briseno said. "The large fanbase of committed fans really means a lot to them."

Reach the columnist at kcdoyle2@asu.edu or follow @kellydoyle06 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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