A young DePaul men’s tennis team is ready to take on the winter-spring season


Photo courtesy of DePaul athletics

Vito Tonejc hits the tennis ball during a tennis match.

Two and a half months have passed since the DePaul men’s tennis team closed out their fall season at the International Midwest Regionals in October. This weekend, the team is back and ready to open their winter-spring season at the Arthur Ashe Invite, hosted by West Point.

The Blue Demons ended the fall season with junior Vito Tonejc falling to Northwestern in singles competition in the quarterfinals of the ITA Midwest Regionals. However, Tonejc and the rest of the team had a strong season and are ready to get back into the swing of competition.

 DePaul’s quarter system means that the team had a month and a half away from campus and each other while training, with some players going home, like Tonejc, and others staying in the city. That makes it more challenging for players to train and stay in game-shape during the offseason. 

“Since we had six weeks, it was important that we stayed in shape the whole month and a half,” Tonejc said. “So basically, we just followed the workouts for our gym and lift from our coach, Jake [Forney], and then my dad’s a tennis coach, so it’s kind of easy for me. I basically played every day.” 

On the flip side, graduate student Tripp Tuff stayed in Chicago over the break, where he practiced with Forney and head coach Matt Brothers, along with a few of the former players on the team.

As a team, the Blue Demons are prepared to play hard all season with a shared goal of making the NCAA Championship again. Last year, the Blue Demons defeated St. John’s University 4-3 at the Big East Championship. That win automatically qualified the team for the 2021 NCAA Tennis Championships, where they fell 4-1 to the University of Illinois. The team is ready to run it back.

However, with a long season that can be impeded by injuries, the team will have a lot of obstacles that they will need to overcome in order to reach their goals, including a young team full of fresh faces.

“I think another one of the challenges that, I think, we’ve kind of overcome, but we have a lot of young guys on the team too,” Tuff said. “So just trying to get them up to speed with playing team matches as fast as possible and getting comfortable in those tight situations.”

The 10-person roster has five freshmen on it who made their DePaul debuts last fall. One of the freshmen, Marino Jakic, is currently ranked 124th on the ITA Top 125 rankings that were released on Jan. 5.

“The challenges are going to be just getting them up to speed,” Brothers said. “You can talk about the moment and what these dual matches are like, and unfortunately, with most of these guys, they just have to experience it themselves, so you never know how guys are going to respond or react in some of these tighter moments.” 

Every match is going to count this season, beginning with the Blue Demons’ first test at West Point, where they are competing in their first matches of the winter-spring season against Army, Illinois State University and Florida Atlantic University on Saturday and Sunday.

The first half of the winter-spring season for the Blue Demons is made up of tournaments on the road. The team plays at the XS Tennis Village for the first time on Jan. 30 against the University of Illinois-Chicago. 

Their first Big East matchup is against Georgetown University on Feb. 26 at home, and they do not play another conference opponent again until Apr. 2 at home against Creighton University. 

Following that match, the Blue Demons will play their final three games against Marquette University, Butler University and Xavier University, all at the XS Tennis Village.   

The team is excited to be back in action and traveling together to matches. 

“Of course, playing the matches is a great feeling and winning a match, putting that point on the board for your school is an awesome feeling,” Tonejc said. “But also, it’s traveling with the team, getting on the plane and just having team dinners and chilling with the team, I think that’s also one of the great parts of the journey in general.”