By Hayes Gardner
The men’s tennis team has shown that their mindset on scheduling matches this season is one of both quantity and quality. The team has played ten matches already this season, including four matches this weekend, two of which were against regionally ranked teams. The team split into two squads—one traveled north to play in the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk Invite and one stayed in Grinnell to host Wartburg College. The Wisconsin-bound team topped University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 6-3 on Friday before losing to nationally ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 0-9 and defeating regionally ranked Wheaton College 6-3 on Saturday. The Pioneers who stayed in Grinnell lost 3-6 to Wartburg.
“My sense is that we didn’t play as well as we could in all positions in that match,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85.
Because of the squad split, the Pioneers were not at full force in their match against Wartburg. However, this split is beneficial in getting more players involved and giving them experience.
“I think it’s a learning experience more than anything,” said John Gernon ’15. “I feel that Coach made the right decision [to split the squad] even though it might not have been popular or didn’t work out like we wanted it to. But I think that letting everyone have a chance to play is more important than losing that one match early in the season, because we can learn from it.”
“We would’ve had ten guys that didn’t get any playing time [if we hadn’t split squads],” said co-captain Colin Johnson ’13. “So even though we take a loss, all of our guys got playing time, which is really good for the program.”
The victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater was impressive, although the Wartburg loss could hurt the Pioneers in the regional rankings.
“I want us to have the best regional ranking we can. On the other hand, I think it’s vitally important that we give the players on our very deep squad a chance to play,” Hamilton said. “Being committed to these split squad weekends will ultimately help our program.”
The team is loaded with first and second years, so having each player participate in more matches will help the team in the long run.
“My adage or my sports psychology position is experience is everything,” Hamilton said. “The only way to get rid of inexperience is to play.”
At this point in the season, the team is pleased with their singles lineup, but could improve in doubles.
“We have a deep and talented singles lineup, but we need to get better in doubles,” Hamilton said.
A few players from last year’s team, including Ishan Bhadkamkar ’13 and Aaron Lapkin ’15, are unexpectedly not playing on the team at this point in the year, which has not helped with the doubles situation.
“We’re working on doubles a little bit more so that we can get some doubles points,” Gernon said.
Because doubles are played first during a match, it is important to win them to get off to a lead.
“Momentum-wise and psychologically, if you’re down after doubles, it’s so hard to come back, so doubles is very, very important because we play it first,” Johnson said.
However, Hamilton has been impressed with how the top two singles players have been playing.
“I’m particularly pleased with the way the two sophomores, Emilio Gomez and Elliott Czarnecki, look,” he said.
This weekend, the Pioneers will stay in Grinnell and host conference foes Knox College and Lake Forest College at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the fieldhouse.
“We won’t completely split, but we’ll spread out the playing opportunities for as many people as we can and yet, set ourselves up for success,” Hamilton said.