Members of the men’s tennis team will be able to sleep comfortably tonight after a strong showing at the Middlebury Invitational. These tournaments allow players to work on their individual games in a real match setting without having to worry about team scoring. Many of the Cardinals in play took advantage of that opportunity this past weekend, as they gained valuable experience against NESCAC opponents.
“The team’s performance this weekend far exceeded my expectations,” said Captain Stephen Monk ’15. “We certainly have things to work on, but it was a great debut given how young we are.”
The tournament lasted two days, and Wesleyan proved to be a dominant force. Five Redbirds played their way into finals appearances, including Michael Liu ’17, who defeated Ari Smolyar of Middlebury in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5, for the ‘C’ Singles Flight Championship.
“I just wanted to play as solid as I possibly could, and let the rest take care of itself,” said Liu. “I feel great, and it was a really fun experience. My mental toughness helped get me through all of the tightest moments.”
The Cardinals also left a strong imprint on the ‘B’ Doubles Flight Championship, as Monk teamed up with newcomer Cameron Hicks ’17 to pick apart the field en route to an 8-1 pro-set finals victory over a split-squad pairing from Tufts and Middlebury.
Monk and Hicks emphasized constant movement toward the net to force extra pressure on their opponents. After the match, the two noted that their fluidity on the court augmented their success.
“I think our success came from our communication,” Monk said. “We made sure to talk after every point, and we kept each other focused when things got tough. He showed remarkable maturity for a freshman, and he will certainly be one of our marquee doubles players for the rest of his four years as a Cardinal.”
Nerves were certainly not a problem for Hicks, as he focused solely on finishing the task at hand. That allowed him to gel with his veteran partner after such a short time together.
“I think that the key to our success was the chemistry between us, which led to our ability to play solid, aggressive doubles,” Hicks said. “I’m a really high-intensity player, and he’s more of a Zen type.”
In addition to playing with Hicks in the doubles bracket, Monk was also entered into the ‘A’ Flight Singles Championship. Monk lost in the first round to Timmy Berg of Bates, 6-1, 7-5, but remains optimistic for the future.
“My singles loss was tough,” Monk said. “I came out weak and never really hit my stride. My opponent kept balls in play, and I was usually the first one to miss. I look forward to playing him again later in the year when I’ve worked off some rustiness left over from the summer.”
Jake Roberts ’17 was able to make it into the second round of the ‘A’ Flight Singles Championship after beating Ben Bogard of Bates, 6-0, 6-0. He eventually lost in thrilling fashion to Middlebury’s Brantner Jones in a super tiebreak, 3-6, 7-5, 10-7.
The ‘D’ Singles Flight Championship was also a success for Wes, as the Birds placed two of their own into the finals. Due to the peculiarities of the fall tournament, players from the same team are eligible to end up as opponents. In this case, Greg Lyon ’17 was able to defeat his own teammate, Charlie Seifer ’15, 8-4 in a pro-set. Lyon cruised into the finals without letting up a set in his last three matches, while Seifer only lost one set in the tournament. This match proved a valuable experience for the two Cardinals. Afterwards, Lyon was ecstatic about his success in his first collegiate tournament.
“Winning felt great,” Lyon said. “Our guys put in a lot of work this summer, and it was great to see some results. I think the best part of my game today was my volleys. It was nice being able to finish points quickly and efficiently.”
Team members hope to transfer this momentum into the match next weekend when they travel to face Little Three rival Williams, the defending Division III national champions.