The career of one of the most successful players in Virginia Tech tennis history came to an end last Thursday, as Luka Somen fell in the Round of 32 at the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Singles Championships to conclude his senior season.
Somen, ranked 47th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), advanced to the second round of the tournament after beating Florida’s Tripper Carleton in straight sets. However, he lost to Georgia’s Will Spencer by a score of 6-4, 7-5 to end his tournament run.
“Luka had a great senior year, and while I’m sorry he didn’t get through the tournament, he did a great job of representing us on and off the court,” said Jim Thompson, head coach.
While his coaches certainly thought highly of him, he gained a great deal of national attention as well. The ITA named him the Atlantic Region Senior of the Year, in addition to his third straight selection to the All-ACC team.
“Senior year was just amazing,” Somen said. “I had a chance to be a team captain, and play some good matches when I had to decide the match, and I really enjoyed it.”
Although he’s had successful seasons in the past, this was Somen’s most statistically impressive one yet. He finished the year with a 30-11 record overall and was an anchor for the team at the number one position.
“At one point he won twelve matches in a row, which is remarkable,” Thompson said. “He just worked really hard all year long.”
Beyond his performance on the court, Somen was also one of the team’s most prominent leaders, and his veteran presence will undoubtedly be missed.
“He was a great leader before, during and after the match,” said Hunter Koontz, a rising sophomore on the team. “He definitely made me a much better player.”
Coaches agree that his consistency made him an invaluable part of the squad.
“He was a real steadying influence,” Thompson said. “He gave us plenty of wins, but it was really his character that spoke volumes.”
Somen’s absence will leave a big gap in the lineup next season, leaving it up to the team’s rising seniors to fill his shoes.
“Lucas (Oliveira) is one of our key guys, since he’s been in the program for three years,” Thompson said. “He and Trpimir (Kujundzic) will have to step up and set a good example for the younger guys.”
Although the team’s veterans will be important, younger members of the team will also be critical to the team’s success.
“We have to have a good fall and practice hard,” Koontz said. “It’ll be up to the freshman and sophomores to fill the gap.”
While the team will miss Somen, it’s clear that he’ll also be sorry to leave Tech behind.
“Playing tennis at VT was the best decision of my life so far,” Somen said. “When I came to the U.S., I really didn't know how much VT would shape me, but it’s really helped me mature.”