FAU men’s tennis is succeeding with a squad of six freshman and one upperclassman

Sharlene Moulton

With six freshmen, the men’s tennis team has a core for the future. But it’s the present that is currently bright.

The team is off to a 6-2 start for the season, and a major part of this is due to a philosophy developed by head coach Brandon Stokes.

It’s called “the owl way.”

The theme is based on four fundamental concepts: leadership development, discipline, accountability and enthusiasm. With a new cast, it was essential that Stokes set guidelines.

“The plan was simple,” Stokes said. “[I’m] going to teach them every day how to train smarter and train better. How to take care of themselves, [and] basically it’s teaching them what it means to be a successful collegiate athlete, because it’s tough. I assumed more of a role of a mentor and a leader than a coach and that was the whole idea, to get them indoctrinated into ‘the owl way.’”

FAU had a 13-11 record last season, but the freshmen are keying a revival. A loss to North Florida on Feb. 18 ended their five match winning streak, but the very next day, the Owls redeemed themselves, sweeping a victory over Jacksonville on Feb. 19.

Players were proud of the way the team bounced back from the defeat.

“We were riding a five match winning streak,” freshman Robert Dubuque said. “For us to lose it brought us down a little bit, but it made us stronger ‘cause we were hungrier and we’re going to continue that hunger.”

Taylor Albrecht (junior) is the only upperclassman. But Stokes believes the new group has the opportunity to do great things.

“I’ve known these guys and have been watching them compete for the last five years,” Stokes said. “By the time they’re done, their legacy will probably be the greatest recruiting class that we’ve had after the four years.”

Freshman Chris Janssen is off to a hot start, riding a seven-match singles winning streak.

With 35 combined singles victories among the freshman, FAU’s young squad has bought into “the owl way.”

“He’s a great coach,” Dubuque said of why he chose FAU. “His enthusiasm just sparks me and sparks the whole team and gets us excited.”

According to Stokes, the group of freshmen is very close-knit and coachable, with a strong desire to succeed, making his job much simpler.

“I have had guys, (who are) juniors and seniors, who have been much more difficult than this,” Stokes said. “The boys are here because they want to be here and they want to put FAU on the map. When you have guys motivated internally like that … I’ll be honest with you, it’s just my job not to mess it up.”

FAU men’s tennis hosts Belmont on March 3 at 2:00 p.m.