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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Tennis goes down to Florida, comes out on top

Elliott Czarnecki ’15 hiting a forehand versus Hope College in a match Grinnell won 9-0. Photo contributed.
Elliott Czarnecki ’15 hiting a forehand versus Hope College in a match Grinnell won 9-0.  Photo contributed.
Elliott Czarnecki ’15 hiting a forehand versus Hope College in a match Grinnell won 9-0.
Photo contributed.

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams went down to Orlando, Florida this spring break for a week of fierce competition against several teams both inside and outside the Midwest Conference. While there were tough days for both teams during the week, overwhelmingly the teams came out victorious, with the men putting up a 7-2 record for the week and the women going 3-2. 

“We played some tough, regionally ranked teams, and despite the fact that we had a lot scheduled, we were able to put together some wins, and I think that the spring break trip can really serve as a springboard for the rest of the season,” said CJ Ray ’16.

The teams faced several challenges during their week, but perhaps the most taxing was the sheer number of matches, with several days containing multiple matches. In such a situation, head coach Andy Hamilton ’85 stressed the need for each player to focus on rest and recovery.

“We crammed nine matches into four days of play … it was definitely a physical challenge for our players,” Hamilton said. “Taking care of ourselves is maybe as important as the whole tennis side, you know, just being physically fresh and healthy.”

Besides the sheer number of matches, adjusting to the Florida weather was also a challenge. During the course of the week, the temperatures stayed in the high 80s with lots of humidity.

“It’s really difficult to play in … the blazing heat, it’s very humid, you’re sweating a bunch, you don’t feel tired, just lethargic,” said Cole Miller ’17.

Both Hamilton and some members of the men’s team cited these playing conditions as part of the reason for the slow start to the tournament. On Tuesday, March 17 the men’s team lost their two matches to Hobart College and the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, both 5-4, two teams that the Pioneers beat last year. The women’s team also had a rough start to their week, losing on Monday and Tuesday to Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, respectively.

“I think we kind of had a rocky start, we were just a little slow at the beginning,” Miller said.

Hamilton echoed this sentiment, adding that early in the week the women’s team “took our lumps and bruises, but as the week went on I feel as if our level of play went up.”

The teams seemed to have found their feet later in the week, though, and both teams claimed solid victories as the trip came to an end, with the women’s team shutting out Concordia University and the men doing the same against Hope College. Hamilton was especially happy about how the women’s team played against Calvin College and Nichols College, whom he described as “solid teams.”

Standing out amongst the women’s team was Julia Rumley ’16 and Shirlene Luk ’15.  Both players Hamilton described as leaders on the team, calling Luk “erratic” and “brilliant” and Rumley as having “the most consistent play, perhaps even among both men and women.”

On the men’s side, Hamilton named Eliott Czarnecki ’15, Emilio Gomez ’15 and Miller as key players during the week. While according to Hamilton everyone on the team had their “ups and downs,” these players had moments during the week where they showed their potential for the rest of the season.

After the conclusion of break, the men’s team came back and played two matches on March 28 against Carroll University and Lake Forest College, winning both 6-3.

Hamilton believes that the spring break trip was fundamental for preparing the team for these wins.

“We hit a lot of balls on spring break, so our players’ timing is better, our players’ conditioning is better, considering that we played three days in 90 degree temperatures,” Hamilton said. However, he also commented that several of the players seemed worn out from the break and still needed time to recover.

Looking ahead, the men’s team has several conference matches coming up, which are important for deciding whether  or not the team will go to the national tournament on May 8. The team has already played over half of their season, and is currently 18-9. Miller, for his part, was optimistic that the team would both secure a spot and perform well at the regional and national tournaments which will take place May 8.

“We have a really good team, the same team as last year, and I think we’re really going to go for it,” Miller said.

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