More than a championship
Plenty on the line for Barry in title match against longtime rival
SURPRISE, Ariz. — So much is at stake for the Barry men’s tennis team.
On Saturday, they play perennial rival Armstrong Atlantic for the 2013 NCAA Division II Men’s Tennis Championship.
Among the implications: Barry could achieve the first undefeated season in team history. The Buccaneers also hope to validate their current No. 1 national ranking, especially against No. 2 Armstrong.
Two team records could fall at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in suburban Phoenix, but the three people involved say that’s hardly top-of-mind.
Thomas Hipp, now in his seventh season as an assistant to Barry coaching legend George Samuel, might lose two spots in the team’s statistical hierarchy. One of the Bucs’ greats, Hipp owns school records for career singles and doubles victories, but the current team’s two seniors — Max Wimmer and Marco Mokzycki — could surpass him if they win their singles and doubles matches, respectively, on Saturday.
Wimmer, a Brenau, Germany, native, is 67-15 in singles heading to Saturday’s championship match. Hipp’s career singles record is 67-13. Mokzycki, from Hanover, Germany, is 78-30 in doubles. Hipp’s career doubles record is 78-19.
“I’m the coach so I see it as an accomplishment from my side,” Hipp said. “I recruit them and I train them. That’s how I look at it. I like when they’re winning. I want them to beat my records.”
Both potential record-breakers have a firm grasp on Saturday’s priorities.
“It’s not the most important thing,” Mokrzycki said. “Thomas was an unbelievable tennis player. He made history for Barry and being able to tie his record means also that I have done a lot of good things for Barry. I’m glad I could contribute to a lot of wins.”
“I mean, I don’t really care,” Wimmer said. “We’re in the same position now. I’d rather want my team to win.”
The symmetry extends beyond numbers: Mokzycki’s partner at No. 1 doubles is fellow countryman Fabian Groetsch. Hipp also hails from Germany. A three-time All-American in both doubles and singles from 2003-06, Hipp is responsible for Barry’s recruiting and player development, among other things, and knows how to work the German talent pipeline.
“It’s all to the network and I know a lot of coaches, so it’s easy when we find (players), I can do more research,” Hipp said. “And then we can be more sure that they are the quality players that we’re looking for.”
A three-time All-American in doubles, Mokrzycki first learned he could top Hipps’ doubles record during NCAA regional play two weeks ago.
“We’re writing Barry history right now so that’s pretty incredible,” he said.
Hipp apparently hasn’t lost his touch, even though he last competed in 2007.
“He’s really good. He’s very competitive, still,” Mokrzycki said of practice matches. “If you don’t have a good day, he’s kicking our butt. He’s very good, plays really well.”
Wimmer has been tied with his coach in singles victories since the Sunshine State Conference tournament three weeks ago. He might’ve pulled past him sooner if not for a cartilage issue in his right ankle that has limited practice and some postseason play.
Also a three-time All-American (two for singles, one for doubles), Wimmer iced the bum joint following Friday’s 5-0 semifinal victory against No. 6 Concordia and says he won’t allow a creaky ankle to hobble him in Saturday’s national title match, particularly after a bout of mononucleosis necessitated redshirt status last year.
“I think it’s special,” Wimmer said. “We’re from a lot of different countries and everybody knows that now is the time. We had to work really hard and everybody did. And next year, us two are going to be gone, Marco and me. So the guys knew what time it is.”
“Being seniors means a lot of leadership in the team,” Mokrzycki said. “We have to tell the guys sometimes. We have to pump them up. But they know when they step on the court what they have to do. They’re winners. They want to win every single game and I’m very glad to have all the guys on my team. It’s a good chemistry.”
Another occasion is at stake for the Barry men: Hipp has a promised a party if they win the national title. Wimmer and Mokzycki breaking his records would be a nice hors d’ouvre.
“You can party much better in Miami than in Germany,” Hipp said of Barry’s Florida-based campus. “You first have to accomplish something. We won the conference, we didn’t party at all. I’m like, hey, conference is a good thing. It’s the first title. But the real title that we’re working for is the national title.”