DePaul men’s tennis takes second in Big East tournament

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Sitting at 2-9 midway through the season, DePaul head coach Matt Brothers and his tennis team were looking at another lost year.

Last season, DePaul’s tennis team finished just 6-18. For this season, five of DePaul’s nine losses resulted in shutouts. The Blue Demons needed a drastic turnaround as conference play approached if they wanted to avoid a repeat of 2012-2013.

DePaul senior and men’s tennis’ best player Filip Dzanko had seen better times. Just four years ago as a freshman, Dzanko was part of a team that went 18-9. Even in his personal performance, the normally solid Dzanko had slipped. He finished February with a 9-8 record.

Then as conference play started, Dzanko changed. The player who had struggled early on returned to peak form, rattling off a seven game win streak.

“(Dzanko) really played some of the best tennis that I’ve seen him play in his four years here,” Brothers said. “That really inspires the guys playing below him. Their leader and No.1 player is going to get a win and lets the other guys relax. When other guys positions are playing their positions well, that’s when you’re playing your best.”

Dzanko’s turnaround was the spark the tennis team needed. The Blue Demons went on five-game win steak and wound up going 9-5 to finish the season, 11- 14 overall.

More importantly – and not surprising to Brothers – the team made a strong run in the Big East tournament. DePaul upset a strong Marquette team in the semifinals before placing second in the Big East tournament, losing 4-1 to St. John’s April 27.

“We were an extremely talented team,” Brothers said. “I knew we had the talent to be a top-50 team. The guys just bought in that you had to put the work in to get there.

“I know the guys weren’t happy to just get to the finals,” he said. “It was bittersweet at the end. It was nice to finish on a good note, but it was our goal to win it all. I’m pleased with the outcome.”

On the first day of the three days at the Big East tournament in New York, the third-seeded Blue Demons got off to a strong start by sweeping six-seeded Georgetown. They moved on, leading them to a rematch with Marquette.

In the first meeting, DePaul lost April 12 in a 4-3 heartbreaking loss. With the loss still fresh on their minds, Dzanko said that they were focused on getting revenge.

Dzanko set the tone and won his personal match 6-3, 6-3 in a dominant performance.

“I thought it was going to be a much harder match,” Dzanko said. “I played very, very well. I didn’t expect that.”

DePaul and Marquette, however, would again come down to the wire. Sophomore Kyle Johnson edged out Gleb Sklyr in a three-set match. Johnson took the first set, 6-4, and Sklyr won the second, 7-6. Johnson prevailed in the third-set, winning 6-2.

In the final, St. John’s comfortably earned the championship with a 4-1 win. David Vieyra was the lone winner, beating Lucas Hejhal, 6-3 and 6-2.

Dzanko’s final match would be interrupted when St. John’s Erick Reyes defeated Sten Leusink. Dzanko, who took the first set 6-3 and was losing 5-3 in the second set, finished his season at 26-10. The senior closed the season on a 13-2 run.

“I know we’re going to miss Filip,” Brothers said. “He’s been a great guy for the program and a great guy off the court. He’ll be a tough one to replace.”