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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s tennis eyes another MWC title

The men’s tennis team returned from its offseason hiatus and began the quest for its 12th consecutive Midwest Conference title last weekend in St. Peter, Minn. A total of 18 players participated in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional Championships and the Midwest Open Championships.

In the Regionals, Elliott Czarnecki ’15 led the Pioneers, advancing to the round of 16 in the singles department. Despite the summer respite and missing last year’s Regionals due to a hand injury, the co-captain did not miss a beat.

“I was happy with how I performed,” he said. “I made it to the round of 16 and in the match before that round, I had a couple match points I saved. I was happy with how I played mentally.”

Because the main season for the men does not start until spring, head coach Andy Hamilton ’85 took as many players as possible in order to get his players in competitive tennis shape and gear them to prepare for yet another strong campaign.

“We made a conscious effort to take a lot of players,” he said. “The idea was to test our mettle in the region. Because our team is so deep and players are so similar in talent, we had rigorous challenge matches before we left. Everyone who went had at least five challenging matches against teammates before we left. Our ability at the Regionals was a byproduct of our preparation.”

In other singles action, Emilio Gomez ’15, Aaron Lapkin ’15 and Tommy Pitcher ’17 advanced to the round of 32 while Tracy Johnson ’16 and Cole Miller ’17 made it to the round of 64. In the doubles play, duos of Czarnecki-Pitcher, Gomez-Johnson and Miller-Rob Storrick ’15 all reached the round of 32.

While these players were demonstrating their talents, another group of players also fared well in their respective matches at the Midwest Open. The doubles tandems displayed impressive results as the teams of Charlie Wilhelm ’15 and Beau Bressler ’16 and Sam Catanzaro ’16 and Will Hamilton ’17 reached the quarterfinals and Caleb Kumar ’16 and Ameer Shujjah ’16 advanced to the round of 16.

“Beau and I did really well in this tournament,” Wilhelm said. “I bring certain shots to the same table and he brings certain shots to the table. We have different strengths but they come together really well.”

In the singles, Bressler reached the round of 16 and Catanzaro, the round of 32.

For Czarnecki, the Regionals matches will provide a spark to the players. He speculated that his play with his doubles partner Pitcher, especially, will see much development after last weekend.

“Something that I’ve gained from the ITAs is that you get to watch a lot of good tennis and maybe see where the weaknesses of my game are and what I’m not so good at,” he said. “[This] is nice because now I have a couple months before the season where I can really work on those things.”

Returning all of its players from last year, in addition to adding several talented first-years, doubles play will be critical for the Pioneers, as most tandems now have an extra year of experience under their belts.

“I think also we benefit from how deep our team is,” Czarnecki said. “We have a lot of really good doubles teams to practice with.”

With more improvement in the doubles play, the Pioneers are confident to bring back home another MWC title.

“We made a habit of wining and we’re confident about our games,” Wilhelm said. “We have a really good thing going in this program and we’re going to look forward to picking right back up next season and doing the same kind of thing, repeating hopefully, like last year.”

The Pioneers will raise the bar this year and challenge themselves even more by adding tougher opponents in their schedule—just the way Hamilton wants it.

“There’s pressure, but we’re in the driver’s seat,” Hamilton said. “They have to go through us to get there. In many ways, I don’t feel pressure and that’s the attitude we take. We’re the champions, until someone takes us down.”

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