April 16, 2013
• Watch Van Emburgh News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's tennis head coach Greg Van Emburgh met with the media Monday to talk about the Badgers' season, young squad and Senior Day.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Van Emburgh's remarks can be found below.
Van Emburgh: We felt pretty good about the weekend even though we came up short against Indiana, played a real good match against Purdue.
The thing right now in our conference is 10 out of the 12 teams are ranked in the top 75 in the country. There's not a lot of margin for error when you're playing four freshmen. We've had a couple of injuries with a couple of players, but playing a young group. So we're in the process of learning, developing, and continuing to improve.
So we're optimistic about this weekend, playing Iowa on the road, and then senior day playing Nebraska. So we're looking to try to finish strong at the end of the year conference before the conference tournament.
Question: Feel a lot better on Friday? I know you were a little miffed trying to figure things out during the week. Did you feel better after that win Friday?
Van Emburgh: Yeah, to be able to at least stop a streak, it's definitely you can sleep better at night. For us, it's the result and the record don't really -- aren't indicative to really where this team is going and heading.
I think we've got a young group. We've got guys that are competing hard and really working hard, and it's a learning curve a little bit. I think getting that win against Purdue was definitely satisfying.
We didn't play the big points great on Sunday, feel like Indiana took their opportunities. They're playing a few more upperclassmen. They might have been favored in one spot. We lost close in the doubles. But we're playing them, and (Oskar) Wikberg at four had match points. (Jakhongir) Jalalov at five was up a set in 4-2. We were up one, 3-1, in the first set, and Billy Bertha was in the third set, kind of a little bit of a rat race.
So the matches were a lot closer than the end of the day's score. Like I said, it was great to get that win against Purdue. We've just got to continue to get confident and try to embrace the opportunity when it's in front of us.
Question: How much do you emphasize to the younger players that, look, you might get beat up on when you're a freshman, but it's going to pay off when you're a junior.
Van Emburgh: I think there's a big emphasis on that. I think it's important to understand that there is a curve. As you come in as a freshman, and a lot of new freshmen that have come in -- and we have a great class that's come in -- they won a lot as a junior. All of a sudden, they come into college tennis, and they're really not winning that much.
Tennis is such a fragile individual sport because you're out there by yourself, and the coach or your teammate from the sidelines might not have the actual answer. You've got to actually find a way to figure things out to be able to win a tennis match. And if you're not confident and you're playing the big points poorly, then those losses can come quickly.
So I think the guys are understanding that. I think they're all in a good frame of mind for these last few conference matches, and I think they're still ready to -- I think they've got some more tennis left in them with some more W’s they can produce.
Question: Knowing that you have such a young team, what expectations do you have coming into the season, and have they lived up to those expectations?
Van Emburgh: I think, whenever you have a young team and you're playing three to four freshmen on a team, you don't really -- you have uncertainty. I think I've had a lot of that this spring with the group. I'm not quite sure what's going to go on. I haven't seen them in those critical situations, when their back's against the wall, when you're playing matches on the road. So you're kind of unsure.
It's a learning process for me, a little bit too with them. Things that I need to say as a coach or things that you don't want to say, you want to keep them loose. You want to keep them having fun. You want to keep them enjoying it and see what happens.
Question: Billy Bertha's meant a lot to this program, part of that Sweet 16 run, and a Wisconsin kid as well. Can you put into words what he's meant to your program.
Van Emburgh: Billy was there when we had that great run in 2010 and actually clinched the match for us against Illinois. He's been fighting a lot of injuries with his back on and off the last few years, which has definitely, I think, hurt his progress, but he was able to make the NCAA tournament last year in the doubles, which was great.
He's really done well on the doubles court. He's been great to have, a Midwest kid from the state, and you want to always try to make sure those are the guys that you're keeping on your team and you're recruiting really hard. You're keeping the in-state talent in state and trying to recruit the Midwest kids as much as possible.