Wisconsin holding its own at home

first_imgBilly Bertha is the lone senior on the Wisconsin squad, and although he has been an average leader in the singles game at 5-5, he has dominated the doubles slate with a record of 9-1.[/media-credit]As the seemingly endless winter weather continues to pummel Madison, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team is preparing for a big spring by heating it up during their season-opening 12-match homestand at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Having already jumped to a quick 5-1 start to open their season, the Badgers look to build on their early season success as the homestand continues.It’s an important string of matches for a team that has big plans for the upcoming season.“It’s nice to play at home because all of the guys, even new guys, are very comfortable in Nielson,” head coach Greg Van Emburgh said. “[Being at home] enables young guys to play their best tennis and gets everyone on the same page.” Getting everyone comfortable and on the same page early in the season will be a critical task for Van Emburgh as the competition picks up for a Badger team featuring three freshmen. Nonetheless, grand expectations remain this spring for a team that feels it has something to prove.“I believe we’re one of the most underrated, under-ranked teams in the country,” Van Emburgh said. “We have two seniors who understand what it takes to win, and the younger guys are definitely ready for their matches.”Van Emburgh said his team goals for the years were to “finish strong in the Big Ten and get back into the NCAA tournament.”The Division I men’s tennis championship is a single elimination bracket draw, formatted the same way as Division I basketball’s March Madness tournament. It is no small task reaching the tournament, as only the top 64 teams in the country are invited. The last Badger team to earn a spot in the tournament was the 2009-2010 squad, which advanced to the round of 16, something no Wisconsin team had done in the program’s history.The only remaining member of the 2009-2010 group on this year’s Wisconsin team, senior captain Billy Bertha, understands the challenge of making the tournament but knows it’s still a real possibility.“We’ve been practicing very hard,” Bertha said. “Everyone is more focused, staying earlier and leaving later at practice and in the weight room as well.”“The new guys are getting used to college tennis and learning what is expected of them as athletes. They’re starting to get competition under their belt and we’re gelling as a team.”One of the younger talents Bertha is referring to is Oskar Wikberg.Only a freshman, Wikberg has already made a large impact on the team. Raised in T?by, Sweden, he has been a tennis standout for many years, eventually winning the Swedish U18 singles national championship. Wikberg has built a very strong 15-2 record individually to start his college career and although he is in a new environment, he seems to be finding his place smoothly and naturally with the help of older teammates.“Our chemistry is really good,” Wikberg says, “Bill [Bertha] helps out younger players and gives us advice, we have a good mix of young players and older players and it’s a perfect match.”Wikberg and Bertha both have the potential to make some noise individually in the NCAA tournament but they are clearly focused on the team.“My goal is for the team to reach the NCAA tournament,” Wikberg said. “Making the tournament individually is just a bonus. My first goal is for the team to reach the tournament. It’s a tough goal but it is very possible. We have to do it one match at a time.”Although the goals are big, the team knows they must take care of business at home before they plan their trip to the NCAA tournament. The 12-match home stand to begin the year is critical for a young team trying to find their comfort zone and chemistry for the season.“It’s very important to start off on the right foot at home,” says Wikberg. “It’s much tougher on the road with bigger crowds. If we could get a few people to our home matches we could use that to our advantage.”As youthful as the team may be, it’s clear “the sky is the limit” mindset has taken over the program. When asked about the team’s youth and diversity, Van Emburgh has confidence and optimism.“We have a great mix. It doesn’t matter where [our guys] are from as long as they have the same goals,” he said. “It comes down to whether we have good guys who are hard workers and on the same page and the answer to that is yes.”last_img read more

Mayor paints dire school picture

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Taking his case for controlling Los Angeles Unified to a statewide group of educators, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday the public school system is in a state of crisis that threatens the city’s economic future. “If Los Angeles is going to become the Venice of the 21st Century – the center of trade and commerce – we need to make sure our kids get a good education,” Villaraigosa told 300 teachers and administrators on the first day of a three-day education conference at the downtown Omni Hotel. “If we don’t, we will not be able to compete for the companies we need to create good, high-paying jobs. If we don’t take care of this generation, they won’t take care of the next generation. They won’t take care of us.” The conference, sponsored by the Education Trust-West, is exploring the achievement gap in California schools and looking for ways to improve student test scores. Since taking office in July, Villaraigosa has made education a leading priority – boosting funding for after-school programs and proposing mayoral control of the nation’s second-largest district. “I think this district needs someone who is accountable for its performance,” he said. “People here can name the last four mayors, but can you name the last four school boards? “When you have to go before the voters every four years and ask for their votes, you are going to care how the schools are doing in your city.” Villaraigosa said he remains concerned about student test scores as well as the dropout rate, which various experts estimate is anywhere from 22 to nearly 50 percent. “We have a system where 13 percent of our students are reading at grade level and 11 percent are at grade level in math,” Villaraigosa said. “What does the district propose? It says it can improve 2 percent a year. “Well, folks, in a class of 30, that’s one student. By the time they reach their goal, it will be 2045 and too late.” Superintendent Roy Romer, who was in the audience during Villaraigosa’s speech, disputed the mayor’s arguments. “I think, what you’re seeing, is the mayor is being very selective with his facts,” said Romer, who is fighting Villaraigosa’s takeover effort. “The fact is, this school district has been on the largest building program ever performed by a school district. We have built more schools than any one else. “And, our test scores are improving at every level and have been for several years.” Romer – who has announced he will retire this year from his $250,000-a-year post – also defended the administration of the district, saying it has fewer bureaucrats than districts in New York and Chicago, which are under mayoral control. But Villaraigosa countered that the district has failed children and parents and needs to change – particularly to reduce the number of dropouts. “There is a direct correlation between the number of dropouts and the number of people on Death Row,” Villaraigosa said. “There is also a correlation between a good education and high-paying jobs.” The mayor also told the group he is continuing to press for an independent audit of the LAUSD – something district officials have opposed – and might ask the state Legislature to authorize such a review. Romer said the district has an independent financial audit under way by KPMG and is getting set for a study authorized by the district’s recent contract with the United Teachers Los Angeles. He said he would welcome input from Villaraigosa and other officials on areas to be reviewed. [email protected] (213) 978-0390last_img read more