Posted on: April 21, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Ethan Holesha, Sports Editor

After a long weekend of action in the NJCAA Region IV Tournament, the men’s tennis team took sixth out of 10 teams. Moraine hosted the tournament, which was the end of the COVID-affected season for the Cyclones.

Overall, Jakub Zolnik and Lucas Skowyra took third at No. 3 doubles and Edwin Hernandez took third at No. 6 singles.

After almost two full years removed from playing, the Moraine Valley men’s tennis team was finally able to have a season. 

With last season being completely cancelled due to COVID, the players were eager to take the courts once again. With a good mix of returning Cyclones along with some newcomers, the team picked up right where it left off.

“Our outlook was basically to be around .500 and we overachieved that,” said head coach Mike Maratea. “We’re 6-3. That’s what we finished our regular season as. I’m pretty happy with our results.”

After a slow 1-2 start, the Cyclones won five of their last six matches to close out the regular season. The team carried this momentum into the NJCAA Region IV Tournament.

Unfortunately because of COVID, no matter how the team performed at regionals they would not be able to move onto nationals this year.

This decision comes down to each individual college. “If we qualify for nationals finishing in the top three this year, we’ve already been told we’re not going to be going because of COVID,” Maratea said last week. “Some schools in our region will go. They’ll go because their college agreed to it.”

Although winning is always the ultimate goal, this year was a little different. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the coaches and athletes just wanted to make the most out of the fact that they even had a season this year.

“For me it’s just taking full advantage of the opportunities you get,” said sophomore Jakub Zolnik. “With all the uncertainties of the pandemic, I’m lucky to have been able to have a season and compete alongside some awesome athletes and people. I enjoyed every second of it.”

MV Sophomore Jakub Zolnik in action vs Waubonsee Community College on April 7.

Maratea also found value in the team dynamic.

“One thing I really liked is that the guys really had fun and got together this year after they missed all of last year,” he said. “This is a really good group of guys at Moraine Valley.”

This is Maratea’s first year as the head coach of the men’s team at Moraine, but he has been coaching boys’ and girls’ high school tennis since 1979. He also has coached local individuals for college-level competition. He joined the Cyclones as assistant coach in 2018 before becoming the head coach this past year. 

Maratea is still the head coach of tennis at Andrew High School in Tinley Park. He’s had to learn how to balance coaching both teams at once in this unorthodox season. 

“Taking the job, I didn’t think I’d have any conflict,” Maratea said. “But then when the IHSA pushed things back, twice, then it created a conflict. It’s been the hardest thing for me and I’m just fortunate to have a great assistant coach at the high school level that understands that I’ve had to miss a couple practices.”

Despite having to juggle between his two teams, Maratea has received praise from multiple players at Moraine. 

“He was very supportive in providing the needs of the players,” said freshman Ali Amer. “Despite the short season, coach Maratea made sure we were ready.”

Zolnik added, “Coach did an awesome job. He communicated very well with all the schools we played to make the best of an awkward season. I think he did his best to arrange meets and practice times that would work for all of us. And on top of that, he always had a great attitude and was just grateful we have a season to begin with.”

Depth has been a key factor for the team’s winning ways. 

“We didn’t have as strong a team as we did with the national teams the last two years I was an assistant,” said Maratea. “But this year we had a more balanced team all the way from top to bottom.”

“The team as a whole, I think we all just want to end a fun and successful season with a great last two days,” said Zolnik. “Obviously it would be great to win, but all we can do is give it our all. Either way, the season as a whole is a definite success.”