The 2016 Elon University men’s tennis team has a fresh slate.
With six new freshmen and the addition of transfer junior Petar Tomic from Auburn University, the Phoenix has only two returning upperclassmen. The two — senior Robert Lindgren and junior Chris Humphreys — have been named the co-captains for the season.
Lindgren said he’s beginning to embrace the new role of being captain.
“Maybe I’m not the most natural [leader], but I definitely try to be more outgoing and telling the guys about how it is,” he said.
Head coach Michael Leonard said Lindgren can learn from earlier team leaders such as Cameron Silverman ’14 and Stefan Fortmann ’15.
“He’s had a chance to see a lot of the other guys who graduated do it, he knows even if it’s by default, he’s got to do it,” Leonard said.
Lindgren’s inconsistent play mirrored the Phoenix’s up-and-down 2015 season. The Bastad, Sweden, native finished the spring season with an 8-13 singles record and 7-11 in doubles. Lindgren was named Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Week March 11 with straight set wins at the No. 3 singles position against North Carolina Central University and Georgia Southern University.
Three of the six freshmen hail from overseas. Salvador Mijares, from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, and Felipe Sarrasague, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, arrived as recently as this month, just 10 days before Elon’s first match against Duke University.
Lindgren, an international student himself, said he spends a lot of time answering questions on life in the United States, spanning from becoming a more confident English speaker to selecting the right cell phone service provider and plan.
“They’ve never been to the U.S. really,” he said. “They don’t know a lot about college tennis or studying at a university.”
Leonard said he’s excited about the upside of his young team, but said he won’t know for certain what kind of expectations to set before they get used to the spectacle that is a duel match.
“You can’t emulate that,” he said. “We can talk about it all they want, but until they see it and hear people yelling, there’s coaches on the court, and it comes down to your match and there are people on both sides screaming [they won’t know], because it’s not like that in junior tennis.”
Earning the captaincy
Leonard said Humphreys’ evolution as a leader is also noteworthy. He said he wouldn’t have named him or Lindgren captains for the sake of naming captains if they didn’t earn it.
“[Humphrey’s] one of those guys who’s changed drastically from where he was when he first got here,” Leonard said. “He’s earned that right to be a captain.”
Humphreys went from no role in his freshman year to a more limited role in his second season at Elon. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native emerged as one of the Phoenix’s better doubles players in addition to playing over the senior players at the lower singles positions later in the year.
Humphreys reached the final of the “grey” singles flight at the Wolfpack Invite Oct. 25.
He partnered with Tomic in doubles throughout the fall, where they also reached the final of “white” doubles flight at the Wolfpack Invite.
A new veteran
Leonard said he expects Tomic to be one of the team’s best doubles players, in addition to bringing in some much-needed college tennis experience. Leonard said Tomic did not arrive ready to go this past fall, citing a decline in confidence during his final days at Auburn. Though, Leonard thought Tomic was playing his best tennis at the end of the fall season and expects him to contribute in both singles and doubles.
“Singles-wise, he just needs to get a couple wins under his belt, to where he can get his confidence back,” he said.
Tomic said Humphreys and Lindgren did a good job making him feel comfortable at Elon — a far cry from a powerhouse athletic program out of the Southeastern Conference.
“I was never materialistic. Yeah, the facility and equipment is a little different, but at the end of the day it comes down to how you play, who you’re with. Ultimately, are you satisfied here or not?” Tomic said.