Lukas Buth got into the transfer portal late, so he wasn't sure what he was going to find.

It was the spring of 2017, and he decided to look for a new home after one year at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

"It wasn't the experience I hoped it would be," the German tennis player said of his first college stop. "I went in the portal, looked for a bunch of schools. Obviously, a scholarship was a big thing. I wanted a chance to play."

It just so happened that UND, after cutting four sports, was suddenly offering men's tennis scholarships for the first time. They had one left for 2017-18. Buth got connected with head coach Tom Wynne and assistant coach Kyle Anderson. They had good conversations and he took a leap of faith to come to Grand Forks.

UND was coming off of a six-win season and Buth, now a senior, couldn't have predicted the massive changes that would happen during his three years in North Dakota.

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When UND takes on Green Bay at 5 p.m. Friday and conference rival Omaha at 9 a.m. Sunday in Choice Health and Fitness, it will do so on a five-match winning streak -- matching the longest since men's tennis was reinstated in 2012-13 -- with a roster lined with players that tote impressive resumes.

UND's No. 1 player is Andreja Petrovic, a member of Norway's Davis Cup team alongside Casper Ruud, one of the world's top 50 players at age 21. Despite playing every opponent's best player, Petrovic hasn't lost this season. He's a perfect 6-0 and was even up a set on Wisconsin's No. 1 when the match was called off because the team portion had been decided.

UND was fortunate to be an early recruiter of Petrovic, landing him before he won a Norwegian national tournament in August. Petrovic knocked out a player from Northwestern and a nationally ranked one from Florida State along the way.

Buth, who played against Australian Open semifinalist Alexander Zverev as a youth in Germany, plays No. 2 singles. Buth went 7-7 at No. 1 singles two years ago, but now can play one spot lower because of Petrovic.

UND's No. 3 player is Edmond Aynedijian, who grew up in Cyprus and once hit with former world No. 8 Marcos Baghdatis. Aynedijian, a transfer from Chowan University in North Carolina, is 3-3.

The Fighting Hawks have another undefeated player in Frenchman Johnatan Parat, who is 6-0 at the No. 4 and 5 spots. And they still have local ties in former North Dakota singles state title winner Jake Kuhlman of Grand Forks Red River. Kuhlman transferred to UND after spending a year at Miami.

"Any coach will tell you that building a program from a position when you have no scholarships or an increase in scholarships, there's an adjustment period or a growth period where you need to convince recruits of your vision," Anderson said. "Initially, you don't have anything on paper with prestige or previous years' records that you can provide recruits who want to come.

"We're very happy with the growth of the program in the last three years where we were able to get scholarships until now. It took some recruits into buying into our vision as coaches of where we see the program going. Now with scholarships and other amazing resources, this is a place that can be very appealing to high-level players."

UND's Andreja Petrovic hits a forehand during a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
UND's Andreja Petrovic hits a forehand during a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics

Transformation at Choice

It's not just the roster that has continually upgraded since UND brought the sport back to campus in 2012-13.

Choice Health and Fitness, the team's home, will soon be changing.

A scoreboard is expected to be installed at some point during 2020 that will show the scores of all matches for fans. A new sound system will be installed and UND is working toward setting up live streams of all six courts -- a big plus for foreign players whose families want to watch matches.

"For me, it's been a great experience overall," Buth said. "It's great how the team progressively gets better every year. Now, we're getting the scoreboard, the sound system. . . You're always trying to improve on things and you see more people are coming and getting better. It's progressing a lot."

UND is still working on finalizing the color schemes and certain aspects of the scoreboard, but the school has mock-ups of a possibility.

UND officials are still working on finalizing the new tennis scoreboard, but here is one possibility of what it could look like.
UND officials are still working on finalizing the new tennis scoreboard, but here is one possibility of what it could look like.

Finding a home in Grand Forks

Transfers are common in tennis, because players don't have to sit out a year the first time they do it. Six of UND's nine players are transfers: Buth, Aynedijian, Parat (Alcorn State), Kuhlman, Lucas Percy (USC Upstate) and Chuck Tang (South Dakota State).

But Buth, whose sisters Kristin and Jana played college tennis at San Diego State, has carved out a home in Grand Forks for the last three seasons.

"People told me it was going to be cold, but I always played better indoors ever since I was little," Buth said. "I figured with tennis and school, there's not much time to be outside, anyway. It doesn't really matter if it's cold."

Buth quickly established himself -- on and off the court. He played No. 1 as a sophomore -- his first in Grand Forks -- and posted a 7-7 record at the top spot.

Away from the court, he discovered new American favorites: Qdoba, sub shops and UND hockey games.

"I've never really watched hockey," he said, "but that environment is awesome."

Buth will leave UND with a communications degree and a minor in leadership. But before that, he's looking to add to the program's resume by leading the Fighting Hawks to the Summit League tournament.

"I don't want to come out of any match with regrets," Buth said. "I'm trying to play every point as important as every other. I want to come out of every match, "OK, I did everything I could. If it worked, great. If not, too bad. The other guy was better than you.'"

Men's home matches

UND vs. Green Bay, 5 p.m. Friday

UND vs. Omaha, 9 a.m. Sunday

UND vs. Valparaiso, 9 a.m., March 29

UND vs. Drake, 5 p.m., April 4

UND vs. Creighton, 9 a.m., April 5

UND senior tennis player Lukas Buth celebrates a point in a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
UND senior tennis player Lukas Buth celebrates a point in a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics

Women's home matches

UND vs. Green Bay, 9 a.m. Saturday

UND vs. Bemidji State, 11:30 a.m. Monday

UND vs. MSU-Moorhead, 5 p.m., March 27

UND vs. South Dakota, 5 p.m., March 28

UND vs. Omaha, 5 p.m., April 11

UND tennis player Kaede Amano hits a forehand during a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics
UND tennis player Kaede Amano hits a forehand during a match earlier this season. Photo by Russ Hons / UND athletics