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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Tennis looks strong heading into MWC tourney

By Michael Schoelz

The Grinnell Men’s Tennis team dominated the competition in the Midwest Conference South Division Championships last weekend. The team only lost one match, on their way to winning their 11th South Division championship, beating Knox College 9-0 and Monmouth College 8-1.

Michael Cole ’12 returns a serve during practice on Wednesday. Photograph taken by Andrew Kelley.

“We were pretty steady against Knox,” said Coach Andy Hamilton. “It was a low-key match—not necessarily a low-key performance but a low key match. Then we went over to Monmouth and Monmouth was 3-0 in the division and we were 3-0 in the division so we squared off to play the championship … The nice part about the entire day was with a pretty deep team we were able to spread things out and keep some guys fresh.”

The Pioneers, ranked 11th in their region, easily handled Knox by relying on their depth to win. Monmouth, however, proved to be much more of a challenge, despite the lop-sided score.

“On paper we had a great score against Monmouth, but it was close,” Michael Cole ’12 said. “We had a lot of close matches … and it was great competition. We were trying to go out and make a statement in the Monmouth match that we were the team to beat.”

Three singles matches went to a third set and the Pioneers won all three. Coach Andy Hamilton attributes the wins to the strength of his players’ mental games as well as their determination.

“I think the third set victories were a by-product of two things,” Hamilton said. “One, we had nothing to lose. But more importantly … we’ve played a lot of good competition and we’ve played some third set and our guys have played in those third sets and there was a comfort level of playing in those third sets.”

Additionally, Hamilton was pleasantly surprised by the level of play exhibited by the doubles team of Cole and Colin Johnson ’13.

“The second doubles victory by Colin Johnson and Michael Cole against a very good second doubles team, I was on the court the entire match, was a real highlight,” Hamilton said.

Playing at the No. 2 position against a talented Monmouth duo, Cole and Johnson were pushed to a third set before sealing the victory.

“Michael [Cole] and I had lost to Lake Forest No. 2 doubles and Monmouth had beaten Lake Forest No.2 doubles so we were supposed to lose,” Johnson said.

Cole and Johnson have been playing together since last year, when Hamilton matched them up in the No. 3 position. At the 2010 MWC Doubles Championships they won the No. 3 and after moving up to No. 2, they are poised to make another run at the Conference championship.

“I really enjoy playing with Colin,” Cole said. “We have great chemistry between the two of us. We’re both high energy guys, we’re both quick on the court, we both like playing at the net so we have a lot of things in common.”

The Pioneers begin competition for the Midwest Team Championship in Madison, Wis. today. The Doubles and Singles Championships will follow tomorrow and Sunday. The team championship is a four team bracket, so Grinnell will play two matches and if they win the first game they will move on to the championship match. More than likely they will face Monmouth again in the second round.

“The first match shouldn’t be very hard, so what we want to do is try to work our game to get ready for the second match, which will almost positively be against Monmouth,” Johnson said. “We need to keep our game up especially ’cause this time it’s indoors and they’re big hitters so indoors benefits them.”

If the men win the team championships they will earn their fifth trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament. Last year, the team lost in the first round on the tiebreaker for the last set of the last match. After coming so close last year, the entire team is focused on winning in the first round.

“[Regionals] kind of comes with the territory of this weekend,” Cole said. “It’s been our goal all season to win conference and by winning conference we qualify for Regionals. Our focus is this weekend to win conference but assuming that we take care of business in Conference then we’ll be excited in the Regional.”

But after the South Division Championships, Hamilton said that the team won’t underestimate the competition, especially if they see Monmouth again in the Finals.

“We’ll go in the guarded but we’re going in there guns-a-blazin,” Hamilton said.

Senior Juan-Carlos Perez ’11 is looking to finish his distinguished Grinnell career with four Midwest Conference Singles Championships and Doubles Championships each. This year he will team up with fellow senior captain Dmitri Glumov ’11 for the doubles championships. Both Perez and the doubles team of Perez and Glumov could qualify for the individual and doubles NCAA tournament.

“Juan [Perez] and Dmi [Glumov] have had outstanding seasons,” Hamilton said. “I think they’ll be in the top four [in the region] which suggests that they’ll go to nationals. Juan Carlos [Perez] has only one loss so he’s had an outstanding senior year.”

Cole echoed the importance of these senior leaders on the team.

“They’ve been fantastic in every respect really,” Cole said. “They’ve been great leaders on the court. Juan and Dmi in doubles … we knew they were good but they exceeded what we were expecting. Off the court, they’re good social leaders and encourage good camaraderie.We’ll miss them a lot next year.”

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