Golden Eagle Q&A with Mark Rutherford
June 19, 2009
By Shannon Walsh
The Calgary, Alberta native has secured a place in the record books during his first three seasons at Marquette. Along with 2008 graduate Brett Binkley, the pair owns the most doubles wins, 49, by any duo in Marquette history. Rutherford claims 82 doubles victories, the second most in school history and 12 behind Binkley. Following a 26-11 singles season and 27-11 mark on the doubles side in his junior season, he was recognized with the team's Academic Award after maintaining an overall grade-point-average of 3.51 while majoring in finance and business economics and minoring in criminology/law studies.
After having a dominant doubles team in you and Brett Binkley two seasons ago, how difficult has it been to adjust to a new partner?
It's been different, I went from being the unexperienced player to being the experienced player and having to show Jonathan [Schwerin] and some of the other guys I played with this year more of what it takes to be successful. The biggest adjustment was personality wise. Brett Binkley was much different to play with than some of the other guys on the team, so it took me some adapting to change to Jon and what he likes and how we mesh best together.
With 82 doubles victories, you are second in Marquette history in doubles wins. How have you been able to pair with someone so seamlessly and get those wins?
I've been lucky that I've had two really good partners, Jon and Brett, so far. It makes a big difference when the guy you're playing with is taking control over everything - the net with Brett especially, and Jon with his wingspan. Those are two guys who it's really easy to play doubles with, so if I can take care of the basics that's what's lead to the success.
At the annual tennis awards, you received the Academic Award, honoring your classroom successes. How have you been able to balance academics with tennis so well?
It's something that you're forced to balance. Starting off freshman year, how everyone structures it in the Al with the Eagles' Nest, that has definitely helped a lot. I knew from the get go where to go for help and what kind of time I needed to put in. The seniors when I was a freshman really helped me with that - "if you want to do this, this is the work you have to put in." People in the athletic and on my team showed me the ropes and really let me know what steps I needed to take to do well academically.
What was it like being recognized for academics in front of the team?
It was good - I think it's important to be well balanced. It's nice, obviously. Sometimes I'd rather get an athletic award, but if you can be successful on and off the court that's great. It was nice and hopefully next year I can get more athletic and academic.
College tennis runs in the family - your brother played at Wisconsin and your sister at Michigan. How did your family and yourself get involved with tennis?
We were all really involved with athletics and a wide range of sports. We grew up at a local athletic club in Calgary and that is where I was able to try out any sport I wanted to. Through that, and since my brother and sister were a little bit older than me, I was already traveling with them to most of the competitive tournaments they were already in, so that was what focused me more on tennis.
What were some of the highlights of last season for you?
A big highlight for me was getting to see the freshmen develop, both physically and on the court. The freshmen made pretty big jumps from the beginning of the fall to the end of the spring. Even other guys on the team like Trent Hagan made a really big step up and I thought his game really matured and he really matured off the court as well. He was rock solid for us down the stretch through the year. We had some great matches and could have finished better, but seeing some of the individual improvements that we made that we needed to do to make next year better was the highlight.
Next season, as a senior and your last go at it, do you feel a sense of urgency to be more successful?
Nico Boulieris, Dusan Medan and I are almost approaching it with a different mind set - more urgent - and we know exactly what we have to do next year. We've really seen outcomes of different team mindsets now, since we've had three years, so different captains and by seeing those, I think we really know what to do next year in a group sense to manage the team. Obviously Coach Rodecap and Coach Martinez do a great job in getting us mentally focused, but from our views as seniors we know exactly what to do now to manage the team, whether it's through practice or off the court.
With the BIG EAST Championship experience on the team, do you feel more comfortable knowing you've already been in that environment?
Going into next year, we'll have four guys that have competed in the BIG EAST Tournament out of six in the lineup. Nico and I each have three years of BIG EAST experience and Dusan has two years of experience in the BIG EAST, so the majority of our lineup is well experienced. We're bringing in three guys that will all adapt really well - they all have a lot of experience. I think we'll definitely be prepared. We've seen different rounds - things go well and go badly at the BIG EAST - so we know how to handle those things better.
How has Coach Rodecap been able to lead the squad, and develop such strong leaders?
Coach has done a great job with us. On and off the court he stresses professionalism in whatever we do, as well as urgency and things like practicing with a purpose. He has basically drilled in our minds how we need to practice every day if we want to be successful and how we need to compete every day as well, because practice is one entity and competition is a whole other entity. Coach has really put things in perspective for us and showed us what it takes, because if you're not working as hard as you can every day, than you're falling behind the other teams you're competing against.
Coach Rodecap has referred to you as a, "comforting player to coach because you always know what to expect when he plays. He is a very consistent competitor and typically rises to the occasions in big situations." How does it feel to be acknowledged as that type of player by Coach?
It feels great that I know that he can count on me. That makes me more comfortable and confident in my own game. If I think of myself as having a reputation as a steady player, obviously I'm more likely to compete at a consistent level more often. It feels great because if he thinks that, than that's going to filter down through the rest of the team.
What part of your game do you pride yourself most on?
I try to really be an all-court player who is able to handle any situation - whether I'm playing a guy with a big game that smacks the ball really hard, or a feisty guy who is really consistent with longer points, or dealing with cheating or anything. I pride myself in being able to play against any strategy and play on any side of the court - serving, volleying or staying back.
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