Seniors provide rock for rookie coach
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 23:04
Through all of the ups and downs the FGCU men’s tennis team has faced this season, the senior leadership of Matt Rock and Steve Binninger stayed constant.
The Eagles hold a 6-8 (3-4 Atlantic Sun) record and sit fifth in the conference after losing to Stetson 5-2 on Senior Day last weekend.
Under first-year coach C.J. Weber, FGCU has rebounded from a 2010-2011 season where it finished 1-9 in the A-Sun.
Weber credits Rock and Binninger, two seniors who were here years before the new coach arrived, for building a foundation.
“These guys (Rock and Binninger) provided the leadership that I needed in order to establish a strong foundation to build a successful program,” Weber said. “They both offer leadership in different ways, but both of them bought on to the system that I wanted to implement right from the beginning, and that’s where it starts from the top.”
Rock played in his final home match on April 7 and earned a singles victory for the Eagles against Stetson.
“I couldn’t be more happy for Matt (Rock) because it’s a really special day and players handle it differently,” Weber said. “Some players get really tight, some players get really loose and everything feels amazing, and they just want to close out their senior year on a bang and everything. I just saw Rock playing really good tennis at the end. He was really fired up, really energetic, and that’s how you want to leave.”
Rock battled back after losing his first set, to win in a third set super tiebreaker.
“I started off with really high energy and kept going, then he (Rock’s opponent) fought his way back into it,” Rock said. “I lost the first set and then kept going because I knew I could beat this guy. I fought my way back in, he fought his way back, then I just really wanted to win, so I took it.”
While he hasn’t seen the court much this season, Binninger, a redshirt senior who has been here since 2007, has shown leadership off the court that has been recognized not only by his teammates, but also by FGCU.
Binninger was honored as the first-ever FGCU student-athlete to be named to the 2012 FGCU Hall of Fame on April 2.
The FGCU Hall of Fame is for students who have demonstrated leadership, integrity and achievement through leadership activities and service during their time here.
Binninger was involved in the NCAA Self-Study Subcommittee on Academic Integrity, Athletics Health and Wellness Standing Committee, Gender Equality Subcommittee, The National Advisory Committee and the Hiring Committee for Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh.
“I prefer to lead by example,” Binninger said. “A lot of people understand my character. They understand that I think that leading is a responsibility. They trust me in all my endeavors. Everyone has been very supportive of me throughout my tenure here. My teammates have been very supportive of me, and I’ll continue to pursue excellence.”
Binniger didn’t see the court much in his career, playing in a career high 20 matches last season, but peers admire his character.
“I wish Steve (Binninger) would have had more of an opportunity to play,” Weber said. “I know that he really wanted that, but he still played a very integral role on this team, and from the outside looking in it’s very difficult to understand that, but in every aspect of Steve’s life he exudes excellence.”
The 2012 season isn’t over yet though for these seniors, as FGCU’s goal of making its first A-Sun Tournament remains as they face Lipscomb and Belmont in Nashville this weekend to close the regular season.