Mithila Iyer, email@example.com
The Grinnell women’s tennis team traveled to St. Peter, Minn. with players competing in both the Gustavus Fall Invite and the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional Tournament. These are both individual tournaments, which are different than normal team meets with each player competing individually rather than as a team in a highly talented bracket.
“We had the chance to play against the best players we’ll ever play against all year,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85.
With a large freshmen and sophomore class, the women’s tennis team is very young. According to Hamilton, the experience gained from playing good competition is integral in the development of the team. With players from 26 teams and three states participating in the tournaments, all the women had ample playing time to sharpen both their mental and physical games.
“I thought everybody played really well, and we all learned more about mental toughness,” Hamilton said. “People who had a lot of hard matches overcame them and got through them mentally, and everybody was really strong and had fun too, so it was good going.”
The ITA Tournament limits the amount of players each school can enter in the draw meaning it has a higher level of play than the Gustavus Fall Invite. The women in this tournament, after an academically heavy week, were slow to find their rhythm. All of the Pioneers fielded in the ITA Tournament lost in the first round.
“Our play was a little bit off on Friday. I attribute that possibly to the fact that our players are finishing up their first rounds of tests and papers academically. They were perhaps a little bit tired,” Hamilton said.
Despite these first round losses, the women still enjoyed a weekend full of tennis. Losers in the first round of the ITA Tournament get to play in a consolation tournament. Given this opportunity, the Grinnell women exceled with Amelia Cogan ’19 and Judith Fan ’19 winning the consolation doubles title.
“On Saturday, I thought our level of play came up as they relaxed a little bit and were better rested,” Hamilton said. “Those experiences certainly will help them get better and improve their knowledge.”
The success was not limited to doubles as Sydney Banach ’18 won the No. 4 singles title in the Gustavus Fall Invite. In the doubles bracket, Virginia Purcell ’17 and Minna Montgomery ’16 advanced to the round of 16 in the No. 6 draw.
The women are right back at it this weekend, with three matches at home versus St. Norbert College, Ripon College and Lawrence University. With the experience gained in Minnesota, the Pioneers are going into these meets with confidence.
“Our strategy is to talk to our players and gain a true understanding of their potential based on having played such good competition last weekend,” Hamilton said.
The Pioneers will have to play to their full potential this weekend. St. Norbert is the defending Midwest Conference champion, but Hamilton knows his players are up to the test.
“Every one of our players will have played against a better player than any of the St. Norbert players. So, it should give them a feeling of confidence, give us a feeling that we can play with a team at the top of the conference, that we can be competitive with that team,” he said.
The Pioneers will play on Saturday against St. Norbert and Ripon begins at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. respectively. The match against Lawrence will take place on Sunday at 9 a.m.