Redshirt freshman Neal Port came to Elon University expecting to contribute to the tennis team. It just came a lot sooner than he expected.
The Phoenix relied on Port and many other inexperienced players throughout the summer and during the Elon Fall Invitational Sept. 26-28 because of injuries.
Senior team captain Stefan Fortmann said he has a lot of faith in the youthful roster even with the numerous absences.
“A lot of young guys have stepped up,” Fortmann said. “With most of our injuries occurring over the summer, the freshmen have had to rise to the occasion. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Fresh off a Southern Conference Tournament championship in the spring, expectations are high for the less-experienced roster. Port, in particular, has earned the respect of his teammates through his persistent hard work.
Head coach Michael Leonard has taken notice of Port as well.
“[Port’s] one of the hardest workers on this team,” Leonard said. “He is trying to figure out how to put it all together. There’s a lot of things that go into winning that you have to develop through match play, and he’s learning that.”
The recent success can partially be attributed to Leonard introducing a stronger weight lifting and conditioning program for his players. Based on the results he has seen, it’s been paying dividends on the court.
Sophomore Chris Humphreys relates his recent fall success to his individual work with Leonard over the summer. Specifically, he’s been working on improving his forehand play by getting more height on the ball with his swing.
“Summer workouts were good. I came here and got to work out with Coach one on one and play a lot of tournaments,” Humphreys said. “That really helped me get ready for the fall season.”
Senior Brian Kowalski said he was proud of his team’s maturity over the summer while he was recovering from his injury. He was most impressed with the play of the freshmen.
“A lot of the guys came back stronger than what they were last year,” Kowalski said. “The freshmen came back and they were ready to play as well. It’s been a good start to the year so far.”
Elon has put together another strong outing in the tournament with the play of their younger members.
The Phoenix will look to build on its recent success when they compete in the Wake Forest Invitational Oct. 10-12.