The men’s tennis team struggled to get over the hump in their NCAA tournament match against No. 8 Kentucky. Their 4-0 loss brought their season to an end, completing their 2022 campaign at an even 13-13 record, an undefeated conference record and a conference championship to match it.
In doubles play, Kentucky was dominant, and DePaul could not keep up. Freshman Jona Gitschel / junior Leon Huck lost their doubles match 6-1 and graduates Tripp Tuff / Luuk Wassenaar lost 6-0, giving Kentuky the edge. Senior Vito Tonejc and freshman Marino Jakic did not finish their match, leaving their score 4-3.
DePaul’s struggles continued in singles play. Jakic lost his set 6-4 and 6-1, while Huck lost 6-3 and 6-3. Freshman Matteo Iaquinto lost both of his sets 6-2, and the rest of the team had three unfinished sets. Tonejc’s unfinished set equated to 6-4 and 4-3 and Tuff’s match was 6-3 and 3-2.
Wassenaar was the lone DePaul player that won a set. After losing the first set 6-2, he started slow but came back to win the second set 3-6 before the next match was called.
“I was proud of them,” head coach Matt Brothers said after the match. “They were the reason why we were in the postseason and playing in the NCAA. They had higher hopes, but the disappointment of the results will eventually go away. They have a lot to be proud of. “
As one of the seniors whose college career has officially ended, Tonejc took a little time to reflect on the season. He was proud of the team and the young guys for competing. The fact that he has played his final collegiate match di lui has not hit home for him yet, but he was positive at the end.
“I’m going to miss the team trips,” Tonejc said. “You can play tennis everywhere but you cannot play on the team in this format, traveling and competing with these guys. Having random dinners together, memories of flights arriving at 3 am and fighting for the next day, The experiences and places we’ve visited and how we battled next to each other – I think that is what I’ll miss. “
Although Tonejc’s collegiate career ended in a loss, he still went out with a bang after being selected as the Big East Conference’s Player of the Year for the second straight season. While Tonejc was grateful for the award, the selection was not his highlight of the season.
“The award is a lot less valuable than what we did as a team,” Tonejc said. “At the end of the day, it is just another trophy. The bigger thing we did was winning a championship because we did that as a team. When you meet again in 10 years, we can say no else did this because it is a team sport. “
The Band of Brothers have created a legacy that is now cemented within DePaul’s program. The chemistry translated to their success on the court. Winning back-to-back conference championships and securing NCAA tournament bids in consecutive seasons has set the standard for where the program should be at moving forward.
“For next year, the younger guys need to keep improving and making DePaul a top 40 program every year,” Tonejc said.
As one of the young players on the team, Jakic heard the message loud and clear. Some of the lessons he learned were to strive for improvement, be open in welcoming the future teammates and never leave a teammate behind. He will use these lessons, other important knowledge and guidance he gained from the veteran leaders of the team along with his experience of him to prepare himself for carrying on the legacy of this squad.
“I want to take more of a leadership role next year and set the goal of doing a three-peat for the program,” Jakic said. “I think that would be a real goal and get ranked along the way. I think that will be great. “
Brothers has been the head coach for the team for 15 years. Entering his 16th season next year, he wants to strive for more, and he echoes Tonejc and Jakic’s sentiments, believing that this team has the potential to maintain the standard and fulfill the goals at hand.
“We’ve been a top 45 program before and the women’s team has been within the top 30, so it is possible,” Brothers said. “We have to get better. With our schedule and conference, it is different from the SEC and ACC. There is a lot that goes into it, from recruiting to scheduling and training and development, but it is possible. My goal is to get us as good as we can, get in the rankings and not have to rely on winning the conference to make the NCAA tournament. “