By Andrew Smith
Men’s tennis began the 2023 season with a slow start. The Panthers dropped three consecutive games at one point. However, they did not succumb to the lows and have continued to claw back.
First-year Viktor Hockl, a management major, reflected on the challenges they faced earlier and how they have been responding. “We had a tough start to the season losing to very strong opponents while not showing our best level ourselves,” he said. “But we kept fighting and working hard and at the start of the conference we had an important win.”
Hockl continued, “Since then, we are on a three-match winning streak. I am a freshman, and it is my first season with the team, and I was really surprised by the high level and the competitiveness of the league.”
Hockl is an international student from Ennns, Austria. He participated on the under eighteen (U18) Austrian National Team and was a semifinalist in the Austrian Championship.
He’s learned that putting losses behind you is very important especially when going through a difficult stretch of the season. “You have a new chance every other weekend to win your match. If you lose this week, you might win the next match, so we have to keep working and believe in ourselves,” Hockl said.
However, the momentum can shift in your favor fairly quickly during the course of a long season. A turning point was the trip to Saint Michael’s College, Hockl said. “They are a solid team in our conference and play on rare courts that give them a huge home advantage. We fought hard, stayed focused and put in an amazing team effort.”
This win gave the Panthers much-needed confidence and has helped them move past the early struggles.
Hockl also brought up the importance of defeating Southern New Hampshire University, the reigning finalists in the conference. “We played at home and many people came to cheer for us. We were extremely motivated and managed to beat them 5:2. Individually and as a team, the win helped us to believe in ourselves and showed us how good we actually are.”
Momentum can also shift on match days. The team plays three doubles then six singles. “To get the momentum and also to carry the momentum on from the last match it is very important to win the doubles point (you need to win 2 doubles),” Hockl said. “If we do so, it is much easier to go into the singles matches and we have the momentum on our side.”
Hockl also discussed what matchups of the upcoming schedule stood out to him and what he is looking forward to. “As a team, we are really looking forward to our game with Le Moyne. They are the reigning champions and we lost to them last year in the semi-finals of the playoffs. Personally, I always want to compete with the best teams out there,” he said. “In addition, it is going to be senior’s day and maybe (if the weather is good), our first match outside on campus this season. To get a win would be unbelievable.”
Despite the constant ups and downs that a team endures throughout the season, one goal will always remain the same, Hockl said. “Our ultimate goal would be to win the conference and I think if we work hard as a team and believe in ourselves, we definitely have the ability to do so. Come out and support our Panthers on the tennis court!”