GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - After wrapping up one of the most successful regular seasons in school history, the Green Bay men's tennis team (15-7, 6-1 Horizon League) is set to begin the 2011 Horizon League Championships with the goal of bringing home the program's first conference crown. The No. 2-seeded Phoenix has earned a first round bye and will play the winner of No. 3 Wright State and No. 6 Youngstown State on Friday at 9:30 a.m. CT at North Central High School in Indianapolis.
Green Bay enters the conference tournament playing some of its best tennis of the year, winning six of its last seven regular season matches - something Phoenix head coach Mark Thomas feels is an advantage for his team this weekend.
"As a team we are playing very well at the right time of the year heading into the conference tournament," Thomas said. "As a coach it's always a focus to have your team peak going into the conference season and then even up a notch at the conference tournament. We feel prepared and ready play our best tennis this weekend."
To watch a video about Green Bay's preparation heading into the Horizon League Championships, click here.
The No. 2 seed is Green Bay's highest since earning the second spot in the 2004 Horizon League tournament. The Phoenix advanced to the title match that year and finished as the league's runner-up to Butler for the third consecutive season.
Thomas, who is in his third season at Green Bay, thinks mental toughness is one of the areas his team needs excel at in this year's tournament in order to come home a champion.
"In singles you need to have all six guys ready to leave everything they have on the court," Thomas said. "The mental advantage can be huge with the level of competition in the league being so close. One of our goals is and has been to take care of everything that is in our control and not let the other things bother you. The guys have improved in that area as the season has progressed, which has helped our level of play increase."
Leading the way in conference singles play for the Phoenix in 2011 are senior Fabian Gogolin (Cologne, Germany) and junior Paul Swanson (Coon Rapids, Minn.), who each finished with 6-1 records. In doubles, the Phoenix went 16-5 against Horizon League opponents this season, led by the unbeaten (7-0) sophomore duo of Erik Finkenbrink (Duelman, Germany) and Josh Oothoudt (Minot, N.D.).
doubles point is huge," Thomas said. "It's what gives you the momentum
heading into singles play. No matter which team we play on Friday, the
doubles point is going to be very important."
Green Bay took the doubles point earlier in the year against both Wright State and Youngstown State, who will square off at noon on Thursday with the winner earning a rematch against the Phoenix. Green Bay defeated both teams during the regular season, knocking off the Raiders 4-3 (April 3) and beating the Penguins 5-2 (March 27).
Top-seeded Cleveland State (14-7, 7-0 Horizon League) handed the Phoenix its only conference loss of the season, taking a hard-fought 4-3 decision on March 26 in Green Bay. The Vikings are the three-time defending Horizon League champs and have won an impressive 32 consecutive matches against conference opponents.
But no matter what has happened in the past, Thomas says the Horizon League tournament is a whole new season.
"We had a terrific season going 6-1 in the Horizon League, but going into the conference tournament everyone is 0-0," Thomas said. "We're just staying focused on our first match and from there hopefully we can move on."Fans unable to make the trip to Indianapolis can watch the 2011 men's tennis championship on HorizonLeague.com. The conference site will carry the title match live on Saturday at 8 a.m. CT.