Following a mixed weekend of play, the men’s tennis team still finds itself sitting in the middle of the pack with a .500 winning percentage in conference play. The Redbirds traveled to Conn College last Saturday, March 29 in hopes of bagging their second NESCAC win of the young season. After abysmal weather conditions forced a change of venue, the players rallied for a gritty victory over the Camels.

“Conn proved to be an extremely difficult match for us,” wrote Head Coach Michael Fried in an email to The Argus. “We started the match playing five singles outdoors, and, somewhat as anticipated, we won the first set on each court with the closest set being 6-2. Soon after, the rain came and we moved inside to their two available courts, which were the fastest, most unusual courts I believe I’ve ever seen. To make a long story short, six hours later, we were very fortunate to come away with what turned into an extremely difficult and taxing win.”

At second singles, Michael Liu ’17 grounded out a tough, three-set match 6-1, 2-6, 6-3. Unfortunately, unlike Liu, fellow freshman Jake Roberts was not able to win after falling in the second set. Roberts was defeated by a score of 6-2, 5-7, 1-6 at first singles. The freshman standout would later rebound, teaming up with Sam Rudovsky ’16 at third doubles for an 8-6 win. Liu also secured his second point for the Cardinals, winning 9-7 at second doubles with Michael King ’16. At first doubles, Zacko Brint ’16 and Greg Lyon ’17 were unable to finish their match. King and Brint both picked up victories for the Redbirds in straight sets at fifth and sixth singles, respectively. Captain Stephen Monk ’15 earned the remaining point for the Cardinals, downing his opponent at fourth singles in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

The team continued its weekend road trip on Sunday, March 30 to Medford, where it faced off against Tufts. Despite beating the Jumbos last year by a score of 5-4, both teams have a new identity with different players this time around.

“On the road again on Sunday, we were simply a little flat, and Tufts just played better than us,” Fried wrote.

The Cardinals only victory of the day came at second doubles, where Liu and King worked together for an 8-6 result. Roberts and Brint put up the best fights of the afternoon at first and sixth singles, respectively. Roberts lost the first set 6-3, but then recovered to squeeze out a 7-6 tiebreak win in the second set. The first-year player couldn’t ride the momentum any further, losing 9-11 in the deciding super tiebreaker. Brint also came back to win the second set 6-4 after losing the first set 5-7. He could not convert on his opportunities, dropping the super tiebreaker 6-10.

It will definitely take more time for this young team to gel together and sustain success, but they have time on their side. The players are forming into a lineup that will not be looked upon lightly come playoff time. For now, the team has to take it one match at a time and focus on Colby.

“We’ll work hard to get our confidence back this week, focus on our doubles and our mental toughness, as we prepare for another road match against a nationally ranked team,” Fried wrote.

If the Cardinals are going to live up to their potential and improve certain facets of their playing style, they are going to have to be led by Captains Monk and Rudovsky.

“I think the captain’s role is tremendously important following a loss,” Fried wrote. “They’re really the mouthpiece that can most help restore confidence and the fire we’ll need going forward.”

The 2012-2013 team shutout Colby, 9-0, but Fried thinks that the Mules will provide a much tougher challenge this go-around.

“Last year’s results against Colby really has no bearing at all,” Fried wrote. “They have a completely different team and have been playing the best they ever have, and we know we’re in for a tremendous battle.”

The Redbirds will look to start a new winning streak against the Mules on Sunday, April 6 at Colby.

“We’ve been working extremely hard during practice this week in preparation for what will undoubtedly be a battle against a much-improved Colby team,” Monk wrote in an email to The Argus. “Everyone is fired up for the chance to take it to Colby on their home courts this Sunday.”

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