Linus Erhart found a lot had changed during the 2½ years between his first stint on the Nebraska men’s tennis team and his latest one that began this past fall.
For one thing, the Huskers went from some of the worst tennis facilities for an NCAA Division I program to one of the best in the nation in Dillon Tennis Center. When Erhart was a freshman in the spring of 2015, NU practiced a couple of times indoors late in the season, but the $15 million complex was nowhere near complete.
Work on the locker rooms, offices, lounge areas and outdoor courts was just beginning. His first time back was an eye-opening experience seeing the finished product.
“I was completely blown away. It made me wonder why I left in the first place,” Erhart said.
It was academics that drove Erhart’s decision to return to his native Austria to finish his bachelor's degree in international business. “I had the opportunity to finish my degree in two years back home as opposed to three if I stayed here,” he said.
But now Erhart is back at NU for his final year of eligibility, working on his master's degree in business administration. His first day of classes last fall accounted for his other big shock.
He went to the old CBA building for his first class, only to discover the business classes had all moved to the new $84 million, 240,000 square-foot Howard L. Hawks Hall at 14th and Vine streets, which opened this fall.
“I had no idea there was a new CBA building,” Erhart said. “The old place was nice, but the new one is unbelievable — state of the art with all the latest technology.”
Erhart was 19-12 overall in his first year at NU, including 13-9 in the spring while playing mostly Nos. 2 and 3 singles. In his final outing that year, the lefty was leading Ohio State’s Mikael Torpegaard 7-6, 1-1 when the Buckeyes clinched the team win over NU in the Big Ten Tournament and the match was pulled off the court.
Torpegaard was ranked Nos. 1 or 2 in the nation most of the past two seasons.
“It was tough to see him go because we really could’ve used him at the top of the lineup the last two years,” said Nebraska coach Kerry McDermott, who is entering his 37th season at the Husker helm. “With Linus, we’re so much better than we were last year. We should be competitive with anyone we play.”
The Huskers, who will open the season with a pair of home matches Saturday against South Dakota State, return their top three players from a year ago, when the Huskers went 5-19 — junior Toby Boyer and sophomores Dylan Bednarczyk and Micah Klousia. Former Papillion-La Vista South state champion Chris Dean, a sophomore who was at Nos. 5 and 6 a year ago, also returns.
Erhart isn’t the only newcomer expected to make an instant impact. Freshmen Isaac Nortey and William Grattan Smith are both contending for spots in the lineup.
No one Erhart played with in 2015 is on the team now. In fact, he’s the only senior.
“Last year was a transition year with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Erhart said. “Based on how we played this fall and how we look in practice, I feel pretty confident about this team.”