MEN'S TENNIS: Single senior to show stability

Shaun Bussert will be depended upon by longtime coach Bill Richards

Senior leadership for a team is always something a coach embraces.

As Bill Richards enters his 38th season as the coach of Ball State men's tennis team, he expects nothing less from his lone senior, Shaun Bussert.

"You always have to look for your seniors for that type of leadership," Richards said. "Whether it's leading by example or vocally, we always look for that."

Ball State's season ended last year with a 4-2 loss to Western Michigan University in the 2010 Mid-American Conference Championship Semifinals, giving the Cardinals a final record of 16-10 (4-1 MAC).

Though the team didn't finish where it wanted to last season, Bussert's goals remain high.

"Expectations for the team will be the same as what we've always had — win a conference championship," Bussert said. "Outside of that, we had a lot of close matches against Big Ten opponents this past year, so we look to turn those around."

Bussert takes the challenge of leading the team as a senior personally and understands the team will look to him to take control.

"Being the only senior on the team, I must play at a higher position than I did last year," said Bussert, who was 11-11 in singles play (7-10 at No. 6 singles) and 4-3 in doubles last season. "I have to improve myself and step up.

"In college, this is a team sport, and I will do whatever I can do to make this team better. I have to lead this team by example."

Last season's No. 1 singles player, Eduardo Pavia, will not return for his senior season. With Pavia's departure, Richards and assistant coach Jeff Nevolo are trying to answer one question:

Who will be No. 1?

"That's a key question for [our team]," Richards said. "In terms of performance, Cliff Morrison is our choice. If Cliff is healthy, he would be the one that would take over that No. 1 spot and take Pavia's place. He played No. 2 last year and had a great fall for us."

Bussert said he needs to have contributions from the rest of the team, and each player is expected to help the team in some way.

"All the guys have great potential. They wouldn't be here if they didn't," Bussert said. "I'm looking for Cliff, Andres [Monroy] and Alex [Doherty] to make an impact. The rest of the team has been playing a lot this summer, and I'm impressed with what they're doing."

Richards said the season can be broken down quite simply.

"Our play in conference will define our success and failure as a team," he said.