Husker men’s tennis sophomore Shunya Maruyama has become a vital part of a young Nebraska team ever since he came over from Japan in 2019.
As Maruyama’s second season competing for Nebraska continues, he looks to be a major building block for a program in rebuilding mode.
Head coach Sean Maymi was not yet at Nebraska when Maruyama was recruited by a former assistant coach. Maruyama’s resume spoke for itself as the four-time International Tennis Federation doubles champion built up considerable momentum during his time in high school.
But, it wasn’t until Maymi made the trip to Japan to meet Maruyama’s family and see him play in person that he knew he had a real talent coming to his team.
“I had an opportunity to travel to his home in Japan and see him play in person and his skills jumped out right away,” Maymi said. “He has excellent foot speed and can move extremely well, and that really makes your opponent work during a match. His offensive game in terms of applying pressure was raw but I could tell he was going to be a special player.”
Maruyama admitted that there were both positives and negatives while playing competitively in Japan. For one, he learned and grew a lot as a result of the opportunities provided to him. However, in his mind, the lack of one-on-one attention he received made it harder for coaches to individually attend to his abilities and skills.
However, Maruyama was still able to impress in an abbreviated freshman season cut short by COVID-19 . He was able to go 13-9 in singles matches and 5-8 in doubles play as he led the Huskers in total wins.
Maruyama has been rewarded this season with a move up the ladder to the No. 3 doubles spot and the No. 2 singles spot. He has responded well with a 7-8 singles record as well as a 4-7 doubles record as he once again leads the Huskers with 11 wins thus far.
“He actually came in a little rusty just as a lot of guys did after COVID and he didn’t quite have his form on so we started him off a little lower on the ladder to start the season,” Maymi said. “But as we got into the season he got his feet under him and we moved him up as a credit to his success and he has responded well to the challenge.”
Maruyama said he had pinned moving up the ladder as one of his goals coming into the season, eager to challenge himself against top competition. He credited his hard work and the coaching staff working with him for his success.
“I really wanted to be able to move up to a higher position on the ladder especially after I started off rusty to begin the preseason.” Maruyama said. “Thankfully with the hard work I put in during the time off due to the season ending early as well as the work I have done with the coaching staff I have been able to accomplish many of those goals in moving up.”
Maymi also credited Maruyama’s work ethic for how he has been able to make such leaps during his sophomore campaign. He also noted that there have been learning curves and new experiences that Maruyama and his young team have had to go through during this tough season.
He gave Maruyama and his team credit for staying focused and hungry for each match. Despite the team’s seemingly bleak 1-11 record, Maymi said the team has improved. According to Maymi, Maruyama is an integral part of that improvement, and should be an integral piece of the team for years to come.
“As we create this new culture as a young team we have had a lot of new experiences that these guys have not yet faced in their careers,” Maymi said. “We may not yet have had the scoreboard success as a team, but I have been extremely impressed with how Shunya and the rest of the team have competed and came together as a team despite all the obstacles of a season like this.”
Maruyama shares many of the same goals as Maymi in terms of building a positive culture and competing as a team every match despite the results not being there yet.
“I just want to help build a good culture here and work hard as a team to help get results,” Maruyama said. “It has been a hard season but we all come to practice and stay focused on getting better each day and I think we do a great job of not letting our confidence drop after a loss and I think that says a lot about our team and the culture we have.”