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Men’s tennis enjoys rewarding weekend

Charlie+Wilhelm+%E2%80%9915+strokes+a+backhand+versus+Augustana+College+last+Saturday.%0APhoto+by+Jeff+Li+
Charlie Wilhelm ’15 strokes a backhand versus Augustana College last Saturday. Photo by Jeff Li
Charlie Wilhelm ’15 strokes a backhand versus Augustana College last Saturday. Photo by Jeff Li
Charlie Wilhelm ’15 strokes a backhand versus Augustana College last Saturday.
Photo by Jeff Li

The men’s tennis team earned three victories this weekend, leaving them at 6-4 on the season. Playing as a split-squad unit against Augustana College, Wheaton College, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater and Central College this past weekend, the team showed their athletic skills with just one loss, to the nationally ranked University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

“In spite of the loss, we got to see one of the best teams in the nation, and that’s always really helpful going down the road, to just know that we’ve played better opponents than the people who we are playing. We’re really grateful for the schedule that our coach puts together for us because it ultimately helps us get better,” said Tracy Johnson ’16.

On Feb. 21, the tennis team split team in half in order to play concurrent matches at home and in Wisconsin. At home, the Grinnell narrowly beat NCAA Division II Augustana College with a 5-4 score and then managed an easier win against Central College with an 8-1 final score.

“What it says about our program is that players who don’t normally step into the court as starters are still very talented in our program. For example, Sam Catanzaro [’16] and Caleb Kumar [’16] came up with important wins in singles and they’re not typically in our starting single lineup,” said head men’s tennis coach Andy Hamilton ’85.

One of the standout players of this weekend included Johnson, who helped the team with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles versus Wheaton. After his victory, Johnson is now 5-3 on the season in singles.

“We expect him to win. He’s very good. Tracy wins a lot,” Hamilton said.

Moreover, Charlie Wilhelm ’15 and C.J. Ray ’16 received praise from assistant tennis coach Lawrence Eyre, who coached at home this past weekend.

“The play of those players really stood out to Coach Eyre,” Hamilton said. “Even though Charlie [Wilhelm] lost his first match, he was very dominant in the second match. C.J. [Ray] won both of his matches.”

Wilhelm expressed amazement towards the program and its ability to compete as a split-squad team.

“The fact that we can send a team to Wisconsin and keep a team here and beat a Division II team shows we have like 19 varsity-caliber players. It’s great we could use them all,” Wilhelm said. “I think Coach was unsure about whether or not we’d be able to win and the fact that we did win puts a lot more confidence in the future on the split-squad.”

In spite of the numerous victories last weekend, the team is already looking forward to this weekend’s match. On Feb. 28, the team will face Gustavus Adolphus College, the 14th ranked team in the country, in St. Peter, Minnesota.

“Just play, baby!” Hamilton said. “When you get to play against those great programs, they actually act as good barometers to let us know, at least for Grinnell, how far off or how close we are to perhaps being a nationally ranked program, because we’re a pretty strong program, but we’re not a nationally ranked one yet.”

In additon to their match versus Gustavus, Grinnell will also play Bethel University in Minnesota. Play versus Gustavus begins at 8:30 a.m. and play versus Bethel begins 12:30 p.m.

— Editor’s note: Sam Catanzaro is the Sports Editor for The S&B.

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