The men’s tennis team severely hurt its chances of qualifying for the conference tournament after losing matches to Trinity and Middlebury. Wesleyan kept it close against the Bantams when it visited the John Wood Memorial Courts, ultimately falling 4-5 on Thursday, April 10, before Middlebury beat the Cards 2-7 in Middletown two days later.
Mike Liu ’17 picked up a key win for the Cardinals against Trinity after taking care of his opponent at second singles by a score of 6-4, 6-4. Liu’s intensity rose throughout the duration of the match, and he vivaciously shouted out “Let’s go Wes!” to punctuate his victory after the match concluded.
Michael King ’16 was shut out from winning a game in the first set of his match, but Wesleyan’s fifth singles player battled back, winning the next two sets 6-4, 6-1 to take the match. At sixth singles, Zacko Brint ’16 took care of his opponents in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
After Head Coach Michael Fried reconfigured some of the doubles pairings, the team went 1-2 against Trinity. The one win came at third doubles, where Brint and Charlie Seifer ’15 snuck out a 9-7 victory. The two had not played with each other since the team’s spring break trip to Florida.
“We learned a lot about team chemistry the last time we played,” Brint said. “We both really adapted to one another. He thrives when he has a lot of positive reinforcement, and I need to be pressed like a front-running racehorse. Also, Charlie is one of the hardest-working players on the team. I’m really happy with how we were able to execute on big plays and execute together.”
Cameron Hicks ’17 got some imperative experience, teaming up with Greg Lyon ’17 at first doubles, though the team fell 4-8 against that top competition. At second doubles, Jake Roberts ’17 and Sam Rudovsky ’16 lost their first match of the spring, dropping the contest by a score of 3-8.
The other three singles matches for the Cardinals resulted in close defeats. Roberts lost in straight sets at first singles, 6-7, 5-7. The freshman has enjoyed a very successful season headlining the team’s roster.
“It allows me to play against the best players in the division, and with the strength of the NESCAC, some of the best DIII players in the country,” Roberts said of playing first singles as a freshman. “I have improved in many facets of my game, as the top of the division features a wide variety of player types. It also helps my mental toughness playing, for the most part, guys who are three-to-four years older than I am, and who have so much more experience.”
Rudovsky was victorious in the first set 6-4, but dropped the next two 1-6, 5-7 to lose his match at third singles. Stephen Monk ’15 played the final match of the day at fourth singles. Monk and his opponent split the first two sets 6-3, 4-6, but after a few questionable calls, Monk lost the deciding set 2-6, giving Trinity the team victory and Wesleyan its first home loss of the season.
The team faced another NESCAC foe on Saturday, April 12 when Middlebury came to visit, dealing the Redbirds a defeat more handily than the Bantams had earlier in the week. Roberts lost another tight match at first singles after winning the first set. He dropped the next two sets 4-7, 6-7.
“I think the matches this past week came down to experience and playing the big points well,” Roberts said. “I had many chances to win both of the matches; I just came up a bit short on the points I really needed to win.”
Despite the loss, Roberts seemed confident that these matches will prepare him more for the future.
“It will raise my confidence, knowing I can compete against some of the best guys in Division III,” Roberts said. “But at the same time, it will get me pushing for the next win, as I need to figure out how to pull out one of these close ones.”
Liu continued his strong play at second singles after beating his Middlebury opponent in a super tiebreaker 10-8. The first two sets were split 6-4, 1-6. The other point for the Cardinals came at third singles, where Brint and Seifer were victorious 8-6.
Brint was not as successful solo against the Panthers as he was against Trinity. The sophomore lost at sixth singles 0-6, 3-6.
“Saturday, I was outmatched but could have performed a lot better,” Brint said. “I had opportunities against Middlebury, but just failed to capitalize. Overall, it was a fair singles weekend for me. I’d like to improve my speed at the net. I think the team is going to continue to work a lot on doubles.”
The team’s next challenge will come at Little Three rival Amherst on Saturday, April 19.
“We will have to beat Amherst, a top-five team in the country, and Bates,” Brint said when asked what the team needed to do to earn a postseason bid. “I’m not sure what will happen. This team will continue to work hard and fight. We are incredibly young. We only have one or two upperclassmen playing in the lineup any day. Wes tennis has an extremely bright future.”
If the Cardinals have any aspirations of making the NESCAC tournament, they are going to have to raise their level of play. Currently 3-4 through seven conference matches, Wesleyan is tied for seventh in the NESCAC; only the top six tennis teams qualify for postseason play.
“We will have to play better tennis on all six singles courts and all three doubles courts,” Roberts said. “We are a very young team, with lots of room for improvement, but the bottom line is that some of the top teams in the division are just outplaying us right now. We need to improve, both mentally and physically.”