By Meg Schmitt
This past weekend featured the Grinnell men’s tennis season opener with a strong performance against Division II ranked Truman State, won by Grinnell 8-1; the team gave a solid effort in their 6-3 loss to Graceland on Sunday.
Men’s tennis leaves their opening games confidently looking forward to their spring season.
“Our team this year will be better than it was last year [because] we have a lot of returning sophomores… [and some] really good freshman coming up now too. Our games this weekend were a really good indicator of that,” said Elliot Czarnecki ’15, who won both his singles and doubles matches on Saturday.
The win comes as no surprise to Daniel Nellis ’13, long-time Grinnell tennis player and now co-captain.
“This is one of the most talented groups we’ve had,” said Nellis.
Talent is only the half of it, as returning sophomore Emilio Gomez ’15 shares the not-so-secret ingredient to team’s success.
“Our captains had us going to captains’ practices in the off-season,” said Gomez. “They had a really tight schedule; we had to plan what to work on for each specific day and what we could improve on, when we could have easily just taken the time [off]. I think that’s a really big advantage.”
It’s not just hard work—the team benefits from their time together both on and off the court, even enjoying an off-campus project house.
“They’re literally like my family here. We’re all very close, and I think that helps us in matches too because we really support each other,” Czarnecki said.
“The tennis team is my favorite part of the Grinnell experience,” Gomez said.
The tennis family has found strong players in its newest family members of the freshman class, and team captain Nellis is wasting no time in welcoming them into the line-up.
“[We are going] to see a lot of guys who are a lot younger get a lot of playing time, which I think will be great for the program down the road,” Nellis said.
These younger sibs join a tight-knit and motivated team as the team looks forward to this and future seasons.
“We’re at similar [skill] levels, which is good because it means we can challenge ourselves,” Czarnecki said.
The road ahead, for this season at least, looks promising, as the team hopes to achieve some hefty goals this spring including winning the Midwest Conference title for the tenth straight year.
“We’re hopefully favored to win the Midwest Conference again, [as well as] favored to do well in Regionals… we have a really good team,” Nellis said. “It’s just been really nice and actually a bit of a challenge for me and Colin [Johnson ’13], the other captain, because we’ve had to make some tough decisions on who actually plays when. It’s been really great having that many guys on the team who are really good.”
Head Coach Andy Hamilton ’85 is looking forward to the rest of the season as well.
“Last weekend was a good start to the season,” he said. “We had a chance to both play against tough competition and play a lot of our players. I am definitely pleased with our performance.”