The Hillsdale College men’s tennis team is returning for its third year of play, bringing a full returning roster and promising new talent for its first season in the Great Midwest Ath­letic Con­ference.

The G-MAC has five teams, including Cedarville, Davis & Elkins, and two former GLIAC rivals.

“We will play Cedarville, who we beat 9 – 0 last year, and then the other team is Davis & Elkins, and appar­ently their coach just left and took some of his players with him to his new school, so they are going to be very down, as well,” head men’s tennis coach Keith Turner said. “Our main com­pe­tition is def­i­nitely going to be with Walsh and Findlay.”

Walsh and Findlay switched con­fer­ences along with Hillsdale. The Chargers beat the Cav­a­liers 5 – 4 and the Oilers 6 – 3 last year to finish fourth in the GLIAC.

Junior Justin Hyman said that the Chargers com­peted well in their last GLIAC com­pe­tition, and has high hopes for this season.

“We beat Wayne State, a very good regional team, in the first round,” Hyman said. “We sur­prised a lot of people by the way we per­formed, and I think we should dom­inate the G-MAC.”

Turner said although he had not heard of a pre­season coaches’ poll, he assumes that Hillsdale will be ranked either first or second in the con­ference.

Although the Chargers switched con­fer­ences, their schedule isn’t sig­nif­i­cantly dif­ferent from last year.

“Our team has gotten quite strong, and now that we are a regionally ranked team, we are com­peting for an NCAA bid,” Turner said. “We moved to a weaker con­ference, so therefore I’ve had to put together a very tough non­con­ference schedule, which basi­cally means we are playing all the good teams in the GLIAC still, so our schedule doesn’t look a whole lot dif­ferent.”

The Chargers signed two new players this season. Sophomore Nico de Enrique Schmidt is from Spain, where he ranked in the top five singles players in the Balearic Islands from 2013 – 16. He trans­ferred from Southern Utah Uni­versity where he played Division I tennis.

Freshman Gabe Katz is from South Burlington, Vermont, where he led his high school team to four con­sec­utive state cham­pi­onships. Katz holds a career record of 83 – 6 in the top three singles flights and was ranked in the top 30 New England players in the 18-and-under division.

“Both guys will be fighting for posi­tions in the lineup, and def­i­nitely make our team a lot deeper in the lineup,” Turner said. 

The new players push the Charger’s roster to 10, a first for the third-year team.

“This is the first year that I’ve been here that we’ve had a team where I don’t have to worry too much about people getting hurt because we have players who can pop in and play for them,” Turner said.

The new players will join a team that fin­ished 10th in the Midwest region last year, according to the Oracle/ITA final rankings, which has even higher goals for this season.

“Our goal is going to be to win the G-MAC and to get an NCAA bid,” Turner said. “Since there are only five teams in the G-MAC, we don’t get an auto­matic bid. So we really need to win our con­ference and then beat a couple of the top GLIAC teams we are playing out of con­ference… We need to at least get into the top eight in the region to get a bid.”

The young team won’t have to wait long for an oppor­tunity to chase its season goals. Hyman said the new players will play singles matches in this weekend’s tour­nament to find their place on the team.

Hyman ranked as the No. 8 doubles team in the region with sophomore Charlie Adams last season, but is sitting out of this weekend’s tour­nament because of a broken ankle suf­fered in July. Hyman said he will return at full health for the regular season.

The Chargers will compete in the West Liberty Invi­ta­tional on Sept. 8.

“There are eight teams there, all right around our level: Tiffin, who beat us 5 – 4, Fairmont State, who we beat 5 – 4, West Liberty, who beat us 5 – 4, and Blue­field State, who is a low, nasty-ranked team,” Turner said. “There are going to be a lot of good teams there, and it’s going to be a great tour­nament for us to get some match play in and get us ready for the big ITA tour­nament the fol­lowing weekend.”

The Chargers will kick off non­con­ference play Oct. 3, and start con­ference play March 17 against Walsh on the road.