Men’s tennis reserved by injured roster

State Hornet Staff

Injuries are a common occurrence in sports. They can arise from poor preparation or fluke accidents and can put an entire season in jeopardy.

For the Sacramento State men’s tennis team, that is the dilemma.

The Hornets have battled through an injury-plagued season, with the pressure of being selected as favorites to win the Big Sky Conference for a sixth-straight time.

Name a player on the team, and chances are, he is or has been injured this season.

The Hornets top player junior Sean Kolar, who was a member of the first team All-Big Sky last season, has been shut down after not being able to recover from a knee injury. He will use this year as his redshirt season, which extends his NCAA eligibility.

Junior Marek Marksoo, last season’s Big Sky MVP, has been recovering from knee surgery as well. Other players like juniors Tom Miller (IT band), Roy Brandys and Oliver Andersen are all dealing with various injuries.

In fact, the only healthy player on the team is sophomore Joaquin Marquez.

“I am the lucky one I guess,” Marquez said. “I have never really had any injury issues fortunately. Since I was a kid the most I have been out is maybe a week.”

The injuries have put added pressure on younger players on the team to step up and contribute. For freshman Ayman Abdulwahab, injuries to his teammates lead to higher expectations.

“Five of the top six are hurt, and we are playing without Sean (Kolar),” Abdulwahab said. “Marek (Marksoo) isn’t healthy. It’s a ton of pressure, especially if you are playing at four, five and six. You feel like you are committed to win and if you don’t you feel really bad.”

College tennis, unlike some other sports, incorporates team play as well as individual play. With the added injuries, it takes a serious toll on a roster with only eight players. When each player is not 100 percent, the weight falls solely on the remaining players’ shoulders.

“Every single shot, every single point, it’s all you out there,” Marquez said.

The Hornets are confident injuries alone are not going to cost them the Big Sky Conference, which they proved recently with dominant wins against conference rivals Southern Utah and Portland State, beating both teams 7-0. Both wins were played without Marksoo and Kolar.

Still, with two of its top players out, the team is struggling with its chances of making a successful run in the NCAA Tournament.The team acknowledged the chatter going on this year about whether it can get the job done. Andersen hears it, but said he does his best to tune it out.

“A lot of people are talking and asking why we are not doing as good as we are supposed to,” Andersen said. “It’s just a matter of staying in the present.”

The team has the idea that injuries and excuses do not coexist; at least not on this team. The amount of matches and practices the team endures throughout the season are going to lead to injuries, but the team believes how it bounces back is the true factor.

“(Injuries) are not an excuse that the other player can’t win, so you are not going to try,” Abdulwahab said. “You have to give your best on court and just see what happens.”

Assistant coach Kevin Kurtz is encouraged by what he sees at practice and said the team is starting to heal up. He was also happy with the play he has seen from Kolar in practice, even though he will not see action this year.

The Hornets are getting ready to play on campus for the first time since 1998, as the courts at Rio Del Oro Racquet Club are due to be resurfaced.

The team has started its homestand yesterday and will continue match play tomorrow against University of Maryland, Baltimore County at 2 p.m.