GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Phoenix men's tennis team has slowly ascended to the top of the Horizon League under fourth year head coach Mark Thomas.
The team won nine matches in his first season and progressed to a school record seventeen wins in 2012, including a six and one conference mark.
Thomas says the success begins with the players.
"Recruiting is the life blood of any program and so we brought in players who were better each year and added depth and last year was the best season we ever had and we just built on it," he said.
Thomas has gone far and wide to gather the best student-athletes possible, the current roster includes 5 players from Germany another England, and the team has embraced the international flavor.
Senior Paul Swanson has a good perspective on the life experience the team has given him.
"I definitely know more about Europe than a lot of American 22-year-olds that's for sure. It's good you get a lot of experience with a lot of different cultures," said Swanson.
Erik Finkenbrink is one of the five Germans on the team and he appreciates having his countrymen with him in Green Bay.
"It's nice to have our German buddies over here and it's nice to experience different cultures. It's good for our future lives as well," said Finkenbrink.
The success of the 2012 Phoenix will only help build the program's reputation overseas.
"They look at the roster and see I have German players here I know them, they are good. I know I'm going to get to a good start because they come from my home country as well."
When I spoke with Craig Cox, another of the foreign born players, he said that the team is close and has found a way to forge a bond.
"We've all adapted a little to each other, we've learned slang phrases, its good fun on the court. We do have a lot of fun with each other," said Cox.
The Phoenix will look for team history this weekend at the conference tourney, a win gets them in the NCAA's the first time and they also get a chance to avenge their lone conference loss, a 4-3 to Wright State.
"Since I came in my freshman year this is what me and the coaches have been talking about it. It'd mean everything. We talk about it when we come to practice everyday," said Swanson.
Making the tournament would represent and important milestone for the program. The ability to add NCAA qualifier to the school's resume, according to Thomas, will increase their recruiting foot print.
"We've done everything else now. It's the last thing we haven't accomplished and if you're looking for a recruiting standpoint, when you go to the NCAA's it shows you're a program you want to go play for," Thomas said.
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