The Lawrence University men’s tennis team finds itself in an enviable position as it prepares to open its season on Saturday.

While most teams would be happy to have one player capable of holding down the top spot in the singles lineup, Lawrence coach Kevin Girard has three that could get the job done.

The trio of seniors Jason Dunn, a Fond du Lac, Wis., native, Cooper Smith and Max Zlevor give the Vikings experience and talent at the top of the lineup. Lawrence opens its season with nonconference matches against UW-Oshkosh and Edgewood College this weekend.

“Jay, Max and Cooper are all very strong players, and depending on the day, any one of them could play (No. 1 singles),” said Girard, who enters his sixth season as the Vikings’ head coach.

“They’ve all got three seasons under their belts. They know what to expect. They all are very strong players, great leaders, and we’ve got a lot of depth with our younger guys.”

Dunn was the team’s No. 1 player a season ago and posted a 12-12 record. Zlevor played No. 2 and finished 10-16, and Smith played No. 4 and was 11-7.

Smith returned to campus playing some of the best tennis of his life and advanced to the third round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional in the fall. Girard said challenge matches on the team will determine who plays where when the season begins, but there is a difference in this group of seniors.

“Max and Jay are more power players, and Cooper is more gritty, a great competitor,” Girard said. “We’ve got strength all through our lineup.”

In addition to the seniors at the top, the Vikings also return starters in junior Jeremy Andereck and sophomore Craig Sherwood. Andereck saw action at both Nos. 5 and 6 singles and posted an overall record of 7-12 last year. Sherwood went 9-15 during his rookie campaign and finished 9-15 playing mostly at No. 5.

“Jeremy and Cooper have shown the most improvement,” Girard said. “Jeremy is really playing well right now. He’s in late-season form a week in. He’s really confident and playing well. You can see it in his strokes and his body language.

“Craig is playing very well also. He has tons of talent. He needs to harness that and pick his spots of when to use his weapons because he has ton of them.”

The Vikings also have six newcomers to the roster, and at least one of them will step into a starter’s role.

“Brian DeCorte has stepped up as the freshman that is most likely to be in the lineup,” Girard said. “Very consistent, great ground strokes. He has to get some college tennis under his belt to see what it’s like.”

The Vikings return their top doubles team of Dunn and Zlevor, and Girard said Smith and Andereck will likely play No. 2 doubles and Sherwood and DeCorte should be the starters at No. 3.

With the strong lineup, the Vikings look like contenders in the revamped Midwest Conference North Division. With Cornell College joining the league, Lake Forest College is moving from the South Division to the North.

“I feel like we should definitely finish near the top of the conference,” Girard said. “The goal, as always, is to win the North, get in the (four-team conference) tournament and take it from there.”

Vikings picked for fourth

The Lawrence softball team has been picked to finish fourth in the North Division in a poll of Midwest Conference coaches.

Lawrence finished with a 9-22 record a season ago and brings back seven position starters and top pitcher Shannon Murray. The Vikings don’t begin play until March 15 with a series of 12 games in Clermont, Fla.

Carroll and St. Norbert were tied for first in the poll in the North Division, and newcomer Cornell was chosen to win the south.

Ranumas record

Freshman hurdler JP Ranumas broke the Lawrence record in the 60-meter hurdles this past Saturday at the UW-Stevens Point Invitational.

Ranumas, who hails from Winnetka, Ill., raced to a time of 8.76 seconds, breaking the mark of 8.78 that had stood since 1990.

Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.