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Men’s tennis program reinstated with new indoor facility


Less than two months after the opening of the new Ernest Grundy Tennis Center, UNK Athletic Director Marc Bauer announced the reinstatement of the men’s tennis program. The team will begin play in the 2023-24 season. 

Scott Shafer, who was an assistant coach when the program was cut in 2018, will now serve as head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“I feel like this coming back has even more meaning for me,” Shafer said. “Of course it’s always going to be great for the university and the community, but to be able to resume kind of what we had going on is really exciting.”

The restoration of the program comes from a $3.4 million endowment created by a private donor, which will cover both the costs of operations and scholarships.

“Shortly after I was hired interim, I was approached by an anonymous donor that indicated their family was interested in helping support the restart of the program,” Bauer said. “I would say that the pandemic and floods that we had here in town obviously put a strain on the economy, so our talks kind of stopped for a couple years. Once we got back in the swing of things again and with the opening of the new facility it kind of resurfaced in helping make that a reality.”

The next year will be used to assemble the coaching staff, along with giving Shafer adequate time to recruit high-quality athletes.

“We need to give coach Shafer a running start so to speak and help the team out a little bit,” Bauer said. “If you quickly, last minute try to throw a team together right now, we could do it, but most likely we would be relying heavily on the transfer portal. It doesn’t give a coach the opportunity to go through that recruiting process.”

Shafer has been given free rein to form the foundation of the team.

“For us, sitting back and allowing him the opportunity to get this program headed in the direction that he hopes to get it headed is extremely important,” Bauer said. “He’s very well-versed, understands recruiting and the process of tennis in general.”

Restarting a program can provide its challenges, but Shafer hopes to find success right off the bat by being very selective. He aims to add eight to 10 players to the roster, having a mix of both freshman and upperclassmen.

“When you have a clean slate like we do, I’m going to try really hard to make sure that I start us off on the right foot,” Shafer said. “For me, that means finding and being very patient… Being able to sign one player that I feel really good about I think is going to set everything in motion to get me the right culture. I want kids who can help me build a culture.”

In the 2017-18 season, the program’s last year, the team finished with a 15-6 record and an NCAA tournament appearance. Shafer plans to continue on that trajectory, with lofty goals in place.

“I’m attempting to build a team that can compete for a conference title in the first two years,” Shafer said. “I shouldn’t say all that because that puts more pressure on me to do that, but at the end of the day, those are my goals and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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