Of the ten men’s tennis players who competed in the Midwest Conference tournament in Madison, Wisconsin on April 28th and 29th, five are first-years. Despite their youth, the Grinnell College Men’s Tennis team still won its ninth straight Conference Championship.
Led by Elliott Czarnecki ’15, the Midwest Conference Performer of the week, Grinnell maintained its dominance in the Midwest Conference.
“It’s a great tradition. Obviously there’s a little bit of pressure, freshman year, to continue the tradition, but I had confidence in my team and the upperclassmen on the team to help us get through it, and they did. It’s exciting to be a part of a strong program and get the chance later this year to play in Nationals,” Czarnecki said.
For as long as he has been here, Captain Michael Cole ’12, along with the other returning players, have had the goal of winning Conference each year. The challenge this year was to help guide the freshmen into the winning legacy that is Grinnell Men’s Tennis.
“I think getting everybody to realize what they’re coming into and what it’s like to play college tennis [is challenging],” said Cole, who teamed up with Czarnecki to win a doubles crown at the Conference tournament.
Other champions for Grinnell included the doubles team of Colin Johnson ’13 and Aaron Lapkin ’15 and singles competitors Ishan Bhadkamkar ’13 and Conor Cunningham ’15.
Coach Andy Hamilton ’85 liked the way the first-years played this weekend, along with the veterans of the team. Their ability to play calmly throughout the season had a big impact on the team’s success.
“One accomplishment that this group has made is we don’t play nervous. We play with confidence and poise. We have had a number of close matches. We know how to win close matches,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton also believes that depending on the seeding, the team has a shot to play well in the upcoming tournament. Two weeks from now, the team will travel to the National tournament to play at Gustavus Adolphus College.
The team will continue to practice hard to get everyone peaking at the right time in preparation for Nationals.
“All you can do then is go out and battle as hard as you can. If you play a beatable opponent, and if we play the best we can, hopefully we get a win. And if not at least we had a great time,” Cole said.
Like they have been doing all season, the team will need everyone to step up and play their best in order to make some noise at the National level.
For Czarnecki, mental preparation is key.
“Obviously, Nationals is a whole other level so you have to adjust your game to that and take more risks in order to be successful. A lot of it is just sitting down and mentally figuring out what risks I have to take and how I have to kind of change my game to perform at that level,” Czarnecki said.
Without star players Juan Carlos Perez ’11 and Dmitriy Glumov ’11 that led the team last season, the Pioneers will have to come together and find points in any way possible. After winning in the first round of last year’s tournament, the team is full of confidence moving forward and all of the players are excited to have the opportunity to play at such a high level. The biggest thing in order to have success will be to play their best when they get on the court and have a solid all around performance.
“It’s a little hard to predict. The whole year it’s been a big team effort. In the past we had those superstars at the top of the lineup that we were pretty confident would get a win every time, and this year it’s just finding points anywhere, really. I think it’s always the case that the bottom of our lineup this year is really strong so we need those guys to stay solid,” Cole said. “If we can get a good performance from the guys at the top of the lineup, steal a win or two, I think we’ll be in really good shape.”