Generally when a team loses the best player in program history, they experience a precipitous drop the following season. This is not the case for the 2016 Wake Forest men's tennis team.
After winning ACC Player of the Year and reaching the NCAA Singles Championship in his freshman year, Noah Rubin left Winston-Salem for a full-time career on the pro tour. But his one year paved the way for top players to follow in his footsteps. His impact on the racquetmen is commensurate to the impact of Harry Giles joining Wake on the hardwood. Since his departure, the Demon Deacons reeled in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.
Two of these highly-touted freshmen, No. 45 Petros Chrysochos (second singles) and Dennis Uspensky (fifth singles), joined the starting lineup. With the entire lineup back besides Rubin, the Demon Deacons possess a lethal lineup from top to bottom. The influx of new talent has moved seniors Jon Ho and Romain Bogaerts down to third and fourth singles, respectively. After finishing 15-11 in dual-matches at third and fourth singles last year, overpowering sophomore No. 19 Skander Mansouri has matured into one of the nation's most overpowering players at first singles.
The No. 10 Demon Deacons (20-4, 4-1) are on pace to shatter their record for wins of 24 from last season. Wake has won its last seven matches, blanking their opponents 7-0 in each match (including ACC competitors Notre Dame and Clemson). The Deacs have also scored a clean sweep of No. 6 Texas Tech and defeated No. 2 Oklahoma twice.
The best feat of the season, however, was reaching the National Indoor quarterfinals before bowing out to defending champion and No. 1 Virginia in a hotly-contested 4-3 match. This accomplishment lifted the Demon Deacons to No. 5 in the nation, a program record.
With North Carolina and Virginia knotted as the top two teams in the nation, the ACC is as competitive as ever. This year, the dark horse Demon Deacons have the mix of talent and experience to usurp the establishment and jostle for their first ACC Championship in school history.
Tony Bresky and the coaching staff deserves a tremendous amount of credit for developing an ACC powerhouse in Winston-Salem. Rubin, who just crept into the Top 200 in ATP World Rankings, deserves his share of credit for showing that top players come out of Winston-Salem.
Wake will take on Miami and No. 20 Florida State on the road this weekend, with matches at Virginia Tech and a huge test in Chapel Hill the following week.