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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Men’s Tennis sweeps opponents 36-0

John Brady
Cole Miller ’17 gets ready to serve against his opponent on Feb. 1.

Continuing its campaign for an 11th consecutive Midwest Conference Championship, the men’s tennis team displayed a dominating performance last Saturday, March 1. Head coach Andy Hamilton ’85 split his team into two squads to compete against two opponents each. The Pioneers swept all four of their matches, 9-0 and improved their overall record to 13-3.

One group traveled to Wisconsin and beat Midwest Conference North Division rivals St. Norbert College and Ripon College. The other group remained at home and defeated Westminster College and Grand View University.

“Our ability to split-squad is really enhanced by a deep and talented team,” Hamilton said. “The four victories to me weren’t unexpected, but I think the fact that we didn’t lose a match at any spot was a bit surprising.”

Against St. Norbert, the duo of Tracy Johnson ’16 and Emilio Gomez ’15, along with partners Cole Miller ’17 and C.J. Ray ’16, and Rob Storrick ’15 and Bryson Cale ’16 all won their doubles contests. Those six players also triumphed in their respective singles competitions, completing the clean sweep.

“We mean business,” Miller said. “We mean to win, and no one’s going to get in our way of doing that.”

Hamilton has been especially pleased with the first-years’ development so far this season.

“We’ve been really pleased with Cole Miller,” Hamilton said. “He is listening to the coaching staff and putting up really good game plans. The fact that he and C.J. Ray are still undefeated as a doubles pair is a comment on Cole. C.J. is a better doubles player, but Cole is listening and I think that’s the real surprise.”

Cole Miller ’17 gets ready to serve against his opponent on Feb. 1. Photo by John Brady.
Cole Miller ’17 gets ready to serve against his opponent on Feb. 1. Photo by John Brady.

Later in the day against Ripon, the same three doubles duos continued their dominating performance and won all of their matches. John Gernon ’15 and Ameer Shujjah ’16 then joined Miller, Johnson, Ray and Storrick to win their singles contests, finishing the weekend’s double-header with authority.

“Some guys are playing two doubles and two singles matches in one day,” Johnson said. “It shows how ready we are for the rest of the season to keep coming. These opponents weren’t necessarily too tough, but it was a solid weekend for us.”

Johnson added that he was especially delighted to see Shujjah take advantage of his playing time.

“He’s one of those guys [who is] really talented, but turns out he doesn’t get much playing time,” Johnson said. “He played well for us and beat a Ripon opponent.”

The home Pioneers, who competed at home in the fieldhouse and were overseen by assistant coach Lawrence Eyre, also joined in on the sweep festival. Led by co-captain Elliot Czarnecki ’15, the other half of the split squad prevailed in all of their singles matches against both Westminster and Grand View. The winners were Tommy Pitcher ’17, Charlie Wilhelm ’15, Sam Catanzaro ’16, Caleb Kumar ’16 and Will Hamilton ’17.

The duos of Czarnecki and Pitcher, Catanzaro and Hamilton and Wilhelm and Beau Bressler ’16 defeated each of their  foes in their doubles competition.

Even though Czarnecki and Pitcher’s doubles record is not as successful as it could be, Czarnecki, whose last year’s doubles partner was Gomez, is beginning to play well with Pitcher, Iowa’s doubles champion in high school.

“I’m getting better at playing with Tommy,” Czarnecki, said. “We’re starting to finally gel and getting better together, so I’m happy with how we’re progressing as a doubles team. Tommy has a really good serve and has good hands at the net. He has a really good mental game, too. We had a string of losses in the beginning of the season, but that didn’t bring him down. He has a good attitude and a lot of upside.”

Johnson believes that those two have the necessary skills to excel. It is just a matter of putting them into practice.

“I think it’s just their confidence,” he said. “They need to realize that they have the tools. They’re both great singles players and doubles players. If they get one or two big wins, they’ll just take off from there.”

After falling to nationally ranked 18th place Gustavus Adolphus College 9-0 on Saturday, Feb. 22 and to a tough Division I foe in South Dakota State University (SDSU) three weeks ago, Grinnell bounced back smoothly and showed its conference opponents that the Pioneers are still the team to beat.

“When we played SDSU, we won two of the three doubles matches,” Czarnecki said. “It gives us confidence in our game that we can compete. I think it also helps us not feel afraid of losing. Sometimes when you aren’t as successful, you get more scared to lose than excited to win.”

Ranked 15th in the regional rankings, the Pioneers will split their team again this Saturday. But this weekend, the team will travel only within Iowa, lightening the load off the players’ and coaches’ shoulders.

“What’s a burden is driving to Green Bay, Wisconsin,” Hamilton said. “These guys are going to be so happy [to] still be in their beds this Friday and Saturday.”

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