May 31, 2023

Seven countries represented as well as three lefties

Posted May 31, 2023 3:37 PM

Story by UNK Athletic Communications

Nebraska Kearney head tennis coach Scott Shafer has announced the names of nine international men's players who'll suit up for the Lopers in the fall. 

UNK was a long-time NAIA and NCAA Division II power in men's tennis before the sport was eliminated after the 2017-18 season as part of a $2.8 million university budget reduction. In June 2022, with the opening of the Ernest Grundy Tennis Center on West Campus, the program returned with Shafer taking this past academic year to recruit and hire an assistant coach. That hire will be announced shortly. 

"Bringing back men's tennis is such a bonus for our sport, university and community. I'm forever grateful that an anonymous donor has stepped up to get men's tennis back on campus and that the university will also contribute to supporting our new program," said Shafer. "There has been a lot of work in the past 365 days since the announcement and I'm excited to welcome these nine young men to campus."

UNK is able to bring back men's tennis after a private donor agreed to create a $3.4 million endowment that fully funds the program's operating and scholarship needs.

Coming aboard with experience are Alex Jaulin (Australia) from Wallace (Ala.) State C.C., Aaron Osmund (England) from Division II Lake Superior State in Michigan and Adam Palecek from Newton College in his native Czech Republic. Each will have two years of eligibility remaining with Palecek and Osmund pursing MBA's at UNK.

Osmund recently won the Cliff Everett Trophy, given to LSSU's top senior male student-athlete. Among his achievements this past year was upsetting Division II's sixth-ranked player, Ruben Fonga of Ohio's Tiffin U., earning first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLAIC) at both number one singles and doubles and graduating with a 3.93 GPA in Mechanical Engineering. He began his career at Division II Alabama-Huntsville before that program was dropped during the pandemic. 

The other six newcomers are all true freshmen with three – Ahmed Abdelaziz (Egypt), Tom van den Dungen (The Netherlands) and Jakub Strzelecki (Poland) – being lefty. UNK Athletic Hall of Famer William Jacome and All-RMAC pick John Steinke are among the top lefties in school history.

The final newcomers are Andy Brisdon (England), Maksym Kulish (Ukraine) and Jip Mens (The Netherlands). Kulish, currently living in Germany, stands 6-3 with van den Dungen at 6-5. Jill van den Dungen, Tom's older sister, starred at Division II Southwest Baptist (Mo.) as well as Division I-members Louisiana Tech and William & Mary (Va.).

"Recruiting is always a roller-coaster, but the nine that have signed NLI's already have my esteem as they listened to my pitch and want to be part of something very new and unique," said Shafer. "My goals in the first year are to create a set of best practices and expectations to create a positive foundation for a program that has the resources to win a conference title and be a major force at the National level." 

The Lopers schedule is to be determined; UNK typically plays several road duals and in tournaments during the fall. The first home dual will come in February 2024 with the MIAA, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) and Great American Conference (GAC) combining for a now 10-member league. Northwest Missouri State, Emporia State, Newman and Washburn are the other MIAA schools that sponsor men's tennis.