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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Tennis wins three of four

Tommy Pitcher ’17 competes against Division I South Dakota State on Monday, Feb. 17. Photograph by Ying Long.

The men’s tennis team played four different schools over three consecutive days this past weekend. The Pioneers claimed three victories out of the four competitions, with their only loss coming against a Division I team.

The team started its weekend schedule on Saturday against Augustana College in Illinois. The doubles round kicked off the match to an auspicious start, with Emilio Gomez ’15 and Tracy Johnson ’16 winning number two doubles and Cole Miller ’17 and C.J. Ray ’16 winning number three doubles 8-5.

“In doubles, that was one of the craziest matches I’ve played,” Gomez said. “We won 9-8, so it was very close. … really intense. We were actually down match point [and] held them off and at six-all. [The opponent] hit a really hard serve and Tracy stretches out, hits a lob and goes up match point and then we won.”

Unlike the Augustana match, which Grinnell won 5-4, the Pioneers easily handled St. Ambrose University, blanking them 9-0. Rob Storrick ’15 and Bryson Cale ’16 highlighted the competition, shutting down their doubles opponent 8-0.

Tommy Pitcher ’17 competes against Division I South Dakota State on Monday, Feb. 17. Photograph by Ying Long.
Tommy Pitcher ’17 competes against Division I South Dakota State on Monday, Feb. 17. Photograph by Ying Long.

The next day, the men trekked up to Minnesota to play against Carleton College, which was ranked Number 10 in the Central Region.

“Carleton is a really good team and we haven’t beat them in a while,” Gomez said. “We lost to them 6-3 last year and traditionally, they’ve had a really strong program.”

Grinnell fought off the Carleton curse, as the Johnson-Gomez and Ray-Miller duos both won 8-3.

According to Johnson, Grinnell lost all three doubles matches last year, making this year’s wins more significant in indicating how much better the doubles teams are playing this season.

“[Winning Carleton in doubles] was really important because it gives you an edge going into singles,” he said. “Your confidence is up and it shows us that we can really beat this team who has been historically a little better than us in the past years. So we knew we had a chance against them this year.”

This proved to be true when Gomez won 6-2, 6-1 and Johnson also won 6-1, 7-5 during their respective singles bouts. Miller joined the feat as he won a thrilling 1-6, 6-0, 10-8 comeback victory.

“I was playing a really good player, but I just wanted to be consistent, focus on every point and go for shots when the opportunities showed itself,” Gomez said.

The last competition that the Pioneers saw this past week was against Division I South Dakota State University on Monday, Feb. 17.

“SDSU contacted us about the match because our location was a good place for them to stop and have a match on their way home from another match in Indiana,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85.

As a Division III school, most sports teams on campus do not get the opportunity to challenge themselves against higher level sports teams. Therefore, this competition provided the Pioneers with a yardstick of where their skills are currently and a rare opportunity to play a very talented team.

Again, the number two and number three teams won the doubles matches, showing the team’s strength even against the toughest competition. Johnson was the only singles win with a score of 7-5, 7-5.

“Tracy beat him in straight sets, so that’s a huge win,” Gomez said.

Although none of the schools that Grinnell men’s tennis team played the past weekend were conference teams, the opponents provided invaluable practice for when the team needs to play to win a spot at the Midwest Conference this season.

“Our immediate hopes are to continue developing as a team and strengthening areas which need attention. Our overall hope is to defend the Midwest Title, which we’ve held for the last 10 years,” Hamilton said.

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