Men’s tennis rolls into new season

Priyank+Soni+pictured+above.

AU Athletics

Priyank Soni pictured above.

Nate Powalie

The coronavirus pandemic has brought turnover with some new faces to the Ashland University men’s tennis team. 

In June, the organization hired former West Virginia Wesleyan head coach Timothy Dunford as the Director of Tennis Operations.

The team also helped out in the Ashland community by adopting a family through the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

Now with four matches under their belt for the new season, the Eagles are back in action with familiar names such as senior Priyank “P.K.” Soni, juniors Stuart Brdicka and Jordan Phelps, and others.

Soni is ready to play in his senior season. “As a player, since this is my final season,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing my best tennis and focusing on winning the GLIAC and getting to nationals.” 

Being the only senior on the team, Soni has a leadership role when it comes to handling the pandemic. 

Under his watch, the team tries to follow the regulations, such as social distancing, hand sanitizing, and wearing masks before and after each match. 

“As a team, we try to stay healthy, follow the COVID-19 rules and regulations, and hold each other accountable,” Soni said.

After being out of action for a few months, both he and Dunford are excited to be back on the court this season.

With a new director, Dunford did have a few similarities shared by the purple and gold when he joined in June. 

“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the court this season,” he said. “The men’s tennis team never got to play a conference match last season, and I was at a different school, we had the same result.”

Dunford is somewhat familiar with the area, as he was a former coach of the College of Wooster men’s team during the 2013-14 season, leading the Scots to a 10-9 record, and recognition as an ITA All-Academic team for the first time in their program history.

With the pandemic, expectations for the season and Dunford have been somewhat altered.

“It’s difficult to have expectations when the pandemic makes things unknown,” he said. “The pandemic is something outside of our control, and we didn’t know if we were going to be shut down before the spring. It’s almost impossible to set expectations. You set for the worst and hope for the best.”

While the pandemic has altered sports, the men’s tennis already has three wins in their four matches this season. Expectations are a little different because the pandemic brings a sense of instability to everything.

In their last appearance, the Eagles were able to defeat Shawnee State six to one. Their next opponent is Youngstown State on the road on Mar. 13.

With the returning faces and a new director of operations, the Ashland men’s tennis team is ready to hit the court for a brand new season.