With all the usual questions surrounding the start of the season, the Elon University men’s tennis team doesn’t lend many answers.
Of its six singles starters from a year ago, only senior Robert Lindgren and junior Chris Humphreys return, and the six freshmen on the roster leave a lot of uncertainty for the Phoenix.
All that considered, it’s hard to put an appropriate weight of expectations on the team that lost in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Tournament semifinals last year.
Lindgren’s had success — he was a second team All-Southern Conference singles player in 2014 and has a career spring doubles record of 31-24. He also won his singles match against College of William & Mary, the eventual champion, in the CAA Tournament last year.
Humphreys and redshirt freshman Neal Port have never been anything more than role players.
But that’s pretty much all Elon knows about its team.
To make matters crazier, Elon announced the addition of three new players 10 days before its first match.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we have a lot of talent coming in,” Lindgren said. “The new guys are very humble. ... They’re hungry for success.”
It’ll truly be trial by fire for a lot of newcomers, as three of them are international players, too.
Elon challenges itself with its schedule, playing three Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the first month of the season. That sets a high bar for success, but it also means it might take a while to figure out lineups and roles for the freshmen.
“They have to create their own experiences this season and then learn from those to gain experience for the conference tournament,” head coach Michael Leonard said.
The roster turnover makes the 2014 Southern Conference Tournament Championship seem like a long, long time ago. It’s not like last year, when the Phoenix lost its first six matches and Leonard could draw on experiences from the previous season.
It’s an entirely fresh slate, which can be good if there was turmoil in past seasons. It’s also a bit scary considering all the uncertainty.
With that, it’ll be a challenge for Leonard. He’s tasked with acclimating this young group and prepping them for some high levels of competition right out of the gate.
As he said, it’s all about being ready for that conference tournament.
Will Elon be?
Add that to the list of questions the Phoenix needs to answer.