Season Preview: Men’s Tennis eyes back-to-back winning seasons, top-five OAC finishes with young roster in 2018-19 campaign

Season Preview: Men’s Tennis eyes back-to-back winning seasons, top-five OAC finishes with young roster in 2018-19 campaign

By Blake Moore

ADA – The Ohio Northern men's tennis program aims to capture back-to-back winning seasons and top-five Ohio Athletic Conference finishes for the first time since the 2013-14 season under third-year head coach Mike Bonnell during the 2018-19 campaign.

Last season, the Polar Bears ended the year with a 15-9 overall record and a 6-2 mark in OAC play to finish third in the conference standings.

The team would also appear in the Ohio Athletic Conference postseason, winning their tournament opener 5-3 over Capital before being ousted by Mount Union 5-1 in the semifinals.

Coach Bonnell and his staff welcome in a young, talented team for the 2018-19 season. The lineup returns just five student-athletes from a season ago while four freshmen join the program looking to make an immediate impact.

"We made great strides last year by going 15-9 overall, but I am really excited about this year's team. Our returners will continue to make contributions, and our freshmen are ready to jump right into the lineup," Bonnell remarked regarding his new-look team. "Nobody on our roster was on the team two years ago. Our 'youth movement' will set the foundation for what this program will become. It is a really good time to be a Polar Bear."

Despite the inexperienced roster, Ohio Northern will return sophomores Vinh Thai (Galloway/St. Charles) and Hoang Do (Powell/Olentangy Liberty) who both garnered All-OAC honors as freshmen.

The pair stood tied atop the team in singles (13) and overall victories (29) while they wound up second on the roster with 16 doubles wins last year.

Thai would receive First-Team All-OAC accolades after posting a 29-20 overall record in 2017-18. He would finish 13-10 in singles action and 16-10 in doubles play, exclusively playing at the number one slots in both disciplines.

Meanwhile, Do earned Second-Team All-Conference honors for his efforts at number two singles and number one doubles. He finished the season at 29-19 overall with a 13-9 mark in singles play and a similar 16-10 record in doubles action.

Junior student-athlete Connor Christian (Gallipolis/Gallia Academy) also returns to the Polar Bears roster as a previous letter winner.

During his sophomore campaign, he would be named to the Academic All-OAC team and finish with a 28-24 overall match record. His efforts included a 12-4 mark against Ohio Athletic Conference opposition and an outstanding 18-8 doubles record, which led the team.

Other returners to this season's team include sophomores Joji Imatomi (Yokohama, Japan/Kamakura Gakuen) and Joshua McClure (Mount Vernon).

Both finished the 2017-18 season at 2-0 in singles play.

Freshmen Zach Beaschler (Ada), Andrew Cochran (Wooster), Noah Elliott (Hilliard/Davidson), and Nate Meadors (Dublin/Jerome) will be called upon to challenge the returners for starting spots this season.

The men's tennis program is set to kick off the 2018-19 season with a trip to the two-day Oberlin Invitational on September 15 and 16.

They will then take on NCAA Division II foe Findlay (Sept. 22) and compete in the ITA Central Regionals in Saint Louis, Missouri (Sept. 28-30) to complete the fall portion of their schedule.

The spring schedule will be announced later this winter.

"We are going to beef up the schedule this year," Coach Bonnell stated regarding the 2018-19 competition slate. "In addition to a quality OAC schedule, we will be playing tough nonconference opponents in Findlay, Oberlin, and Ohio Wesleyan while playing top-notch competition over spring break. For us to achieve conference success, we need to continue playing quality programs."

Though the season is early, the coaches and players are optimistic for a successful 2018-19 season.

"We are just in our second week of the fall season, but the intensity of our practices is so much better than in the past. The team chemistry has been great and the quality of play is noticeably improved. We are really excited to see how this group continues to grow and the success they can have this season."