The playoff odds for the men’s tennis team (3-5, 8-6 NESCAC) took a big hit on Saturday, April 19 after it was shut out by Amherst (8-0, 29-2 NESCAC) in a 9-0 defeat. This damage comes at a crucial time, extending the team’s losing streak to three with one match remaining. Despite not expecting to defeat a Lord Jeff team that is ranked third nationally, the Cardinals were only able to win one set over their Little Three rivals.
“I thought we played fairly well this weekend; unfortunately, we’re still solidly outgunned by top-five national teams,” said Head Coach Michael Fried.
The only three-set match of the day came at fifth singles. Michael King ’16 was able to rebound after getting blanked 6-0 in the first set. King took the second set 6-4, but fell by a narrow margin in the super tiebreaker, 10-8.
First doubles also proved to be a thrilling match, although the Cardinals were not able to pull out the victory. Jake Roberts ’17 and Captain Sam Rudovsky ’16 came close, but not enough, as the final score was 9-8.
The courts in Amherst were playing pretty fast, similar to the surface that the team plays on in Middletown at the John Wood Memorial Courts.
“We played outside at Amherst on courts extremely similar to our own,” Fried said. “We were never able to really establish ourselves in a couple of the matches, but doubles efforts from [Roberts] and [Rudovsky] and singles play from [King] were clear bright spots.”
Roberts was also beaten pretty easily at first singles, as he was only able to take one game off Amherst’s top ranked player. The final score was 6-0, 6-1. Fellow freshman Mike Liu fared a little better, losing 6-3, 6-2 at second singles. At fourth singles, Rudovsky was also able to take five games off his Amherst opponent, losing 6-2, 6-3.
After losing the first set 6-1, Captain Stephen Monk ’15 was able to bounce back and take his match into a second-set tiebreaker. Unfortunately, that was the end of Monk’s comeback, as he fell in straight sets, 6-1, 7-6. At sixth singles, Charlie Seifer ’15 could not take a game off his opponent, falling 6-0, 6-0.
At second doubles for the Redbirds, two freshmen, Cameron Hicks and Greg Lyon, were ousted by a Lord Jeffs’ duo 8-1. Seifer and Zacko Brint ’16 played third doubles for the Cardinals and did a little better than the second doubles team, losing 8-4.
The success might not be seen in the win-loss column, but this year’s team has grown up together and has certainly improved throughout the course of the season.
“I think we’ve learned this season that what separates the mid-tier NESCAC teams, those ranked between about 20 and 35 nationally, is very, very small,” Fried said. “We’ve learned that we have to outwork everyone else and show up, physically and mentally, to put ourselves in the best position to rise to the top of that group and beyond.”
The team currently has a .375 winning percentage in conference, which places them in a tie for eighth with Tufts, although the Jumbos have the tiebreaker over the Cardinals after an 8-1 win over Wes earlier in the season. This does not bode well for the Redbirds, as only the top six teams in the conference qualify for the playoffs.
The team will look to close out the season on a high note at home next Sunday, April 27 against Bates. The Cardinals will be trying to avenge last year’s 5-4 first-round playoff loss to the Bobcats. Players from last year’s team who will be back for another shot at Bates include Brint, King, Monk, and Rudovsky. Out of the four, King was the only one to help Wesleyan earn a point. He teamed up with Jeff Legunn ’13 at second doubles and won 8-5.
“We’re all looking forward to another great match with Bates on Sunday,” Fried said. “They’re another team in that mix, and it’s another great opportunity for us to get the experience that comes from those types of matches amongst equals.”