Louisville Cardinals men's tennis is flying high this spring. Under head coach Rex Ecarma, the Cards hold a current 18-5 overall record and are 5-3 in ACC play. In just their third season in the conference, Louisville's program is not only on the right track but they;re in contention for the ACC championship.
The program took quite a hit after the 2014-15 season when six seniors — six of the top seven players — graduated. The program struggled, and even "lost traction in the rankings and were no where in sight," per coach Ecarma.
"2016 was the prime rebuilding year for the Cardinals, and they've become what Ecarma calls the "redeem team."
"They're redeeming what Louisville tennis has been for many years," Ecarma said.
With a shift in mentality and work ethic, and embracing and thriving in Louisville's culture, the current group set the theme early in the year. Ecarma said that with every day the 2017 Cardinals look the part of a contender, not just for this season, but beyond.
"They're on an upward trajectory," Ecarma told HERO. "They're just a fun group to coach and have great chemistry and pride. And all of our starters will be back next year except for one doubles player."
What's been different for this year versus past seasons? It started last season when Ecarma named the captain long before he typically does.
"I usually name a captain after the fall semester, but, last spring, our riding sophomore Chris Morin-Kougoucheff earned this title," Ecarma said. "He's a great leader on and off the court and is 4-1 at No.1 singles in the ACC, and he conveys the message of the coaches to his teammates that there's more to come."
On the squad next to Morin-Kougoucheff is Sean Donohue and Parker Wynn, a doubles duo that started the season 19-1, and it appears there's more to come.
The Cardinals have their eyes set on the ACC Tournament and believe in themselves more than ever. The turning point this season came during the Notre Dame match in mid-March. The Fighting Irish are Louisville's biggest rival dating back to the days both programs were in the Big East. Defeating Notre Dame set the tone.
"The atmosphere was back to being loud, practices were louder, and we went on to beat Virginia Tech and Miami, who we lost to last year," Ecarma said. "We could visually see the improvement and the positive attitudes, and we were becoming the 'redeem team' we talked about."