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          Howe's love of game grows

          Amruth Jonnalagadda

          Issue date: 4/16/10 Section: Sports
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          Freshman Nicolas Howe (left) with doubles partner John Smetona on Saturday. Howe has moved up from the No. 6 singles spot to No. 4 and the No.3 doubles spot to No.1 this season.
          Media Credit: James Hale
          Freshman Nicolas Howe (left) with doubles partner John Smetona on Saturday. Howe has moved up from the No. 6 singles spot to No. 4 and the No.3 doubles spot to No.1 this season. "To be honest, I've improved on every part of the game," said Howe.
          [Click to enlarge]
          Some tennis players, like Rafael Nadal, come out of the womb with a racket in hand. Freshman Nicolas Howe, on the other hand, is relatively new to high-level competitive tennis.

          "I didn't start getting serious about tennis until summer of junior year in high school," said Howe. Two years later, Howe finds himself among a group of talented players on the CWRU tennis team trying to move the program to the next level. Tennis has become such an important part of Howe's life that he hopes to incorporate his love for the game into his future. "I would love to coach tennis," said Howe.

          Howe first started playing tennis with his older sister and would pick up a racket from time to time. As his interest in the sport grew, he started hitting against a wall at a nearby park. His dad fostered his interest in the game by taking him to a pro tournament. Because Howe's high school coach grew up with Spartan head coach Todd Wojtkowski, Wojtkowski saw some of Howe's matches and ended up recruiting him to play for the Spartans.

          The transition to college tennis was difficult for Howe. "There's a lot better competition in college. You can't have a good team with one player," he said.

          As one of four freshmen on the team, Howe has been constantly honing his skills. "To be honest, I've improved on every part of the game. I'm way more prepared. I didn't have to be as focused in high school," said Howe.

          Due to an injury on the team, Howe was moved from the No. 3 doubles team, a spot he had been playing throughout the fall and winter, to No. 1 doubles with senior John Smetona. Howe rose to the occasion, helping Smetona roll four straight wins against quality opponents such as Allegheny, Wooster, and Denison. Howe's playing style contrasts with Smetona's calm demeanor: Howe is more like his favorite tennis player, Gael Monfils.

          "Gael is so passionate about the game. He's so fast and athletic," said Howe.

          On the singles side, Howe is now in the No. 4 position. His signature win, however, came at the No. 6 position against Kalamazoo. He won in three sets, with the third decided in a tiebreaker.

          Although the Spartans will be losing one of their best players when Smetona graduates, Howe believes the team will be winning more close matches in the future. "Next year, we'll be a lot deeper," he said.
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