If there were any questions about a sophomore slump for Tomas Hanzlik after his stellar freshman campaign, he put them to rest this weekend in Charlottesville, Va.
“I worked hard in the summer and the beginning of fall and it paid off,” Hanzlik said. “I was ready to play and it was a good tournament. My big weapon was that I was rock solid.”
Hanzlik shined in his season-opening tournament when the Nittany Lions traveled for the UVA Ranked plus One Invitational. Hanzlik cruised through his first match, defeating Memphis’ David O’Hare 6-2, 6-0. On Saturday, Hanzlik showed his determination to win when he picked up two victories after dropping the first set.
Hanzlik’s second-round win came against Radford’s Nick Sayer, who currently sits in the No. 74 spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls. Hanzlik’s march through the Blue singles bracket would end when he fell in the finals to No. 8 ranked Alex Domijan from Virginia.
Nonetheless, his teammates and coach had praise for the sophomore.
“Tomas was a warrior this weekend,” junior Russell Bader said. “He fought really hard [and] played extremely well. He just showed a lot of heart.”
Senior Bryan Welnetz also turned in a strong performance by bouncing back after losing his first two singles matches of the tournament. Welnetz knocked off Michael Lippens of Louisville, then earned a 6-2 first-set win over Radford’s Joe Mills before Mills retired. The victory secured Welnetz 13th place in the White singles bracket.
Assistant coach Chris Cagle said that Welnetz practiced hard during summer and the first part of the fall season and he just ran into some stiff competition early on when he played Rafael Aita from UNC-Wilmington, who is ranked No. 55..
“Honestly, he’s been playing the best singles on our team,” Cagle said. “He’s worked hard to prepare for the tournaments and…I think we’ll see his results continue to improve.”
Freshman Roman Trkulja lost his first two singles matches in his Penn State debut. Trkulja was then forced to retire during his match with O’Hare due to an abdominal muscle injury.
Cagle said Trkulja will be evaluated when the team gets back to State College, but he expects Trkulja to play next weekend in the ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa.
The Lions continued the trend of struggling with doubles play on day one of the tournament. The No. 28-ranked duo of Bader and Trkulja as well as the pair of Hanzlik and Welnetz were unable to tally a victory on Friday.
Cagle said the Lions met that night and went over some things that the team could enhance and it paid off. Both pairs picked up consolation third-place wins in their respective brackets the next day.
“The players and myself were disappointed with our results from Friday,” Cagle said. “We expected to do better…but, we came back Saturday morning and improved on some things that we wanted to do better.”
Cagle said the Lions’ performance this weekend was a building block in the team’s season. He said there were highlights in the team’s play, but also places where the Lions can improve.
Cagle also said that the Lions chose to participate in this event due to the level of competition associated with it. Virginia finished last season as the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Cagle said the team learned from the tough competition the other schools brought to the tournament.
“We’ve got to be consistent with our play throughout matches,” Cagle said. “The better players in the country don’t have ebbs and flows in their matches. They stay consistent throughout the match as well as their whole play is just consistent.”