By Jack Calhoun
City on a Hill Press Reporter
It was a crisp and chilly winter weekend outside in central Minnesota several days ago. But within the indoor tennis courts of Gustavus Adolphus College, things were heating up for the Slugs.
The top players for UC Santa Cruz’s men’s tennis team ventured out to St. Peters, Minn. last Thursday, where they took part in the ITA Division III Men’s National Team Indoor Championship. It was there that the Slugs squared off against a pool of seven of the other top DIII schools in the country, battling through the weekend only to emerge a frustrating sixth out of eight. Starter senior Ilya Gendelman described it as “our worst performance ever at this tournament.”
The Slugs started their weekend with a match against Ohio’s Kenyon College, a school currently ranked fifth and known for its domination in nearly every aspect of DIII sports. It was this match that established the theme for the rest of the tournament, as the Slugs were crushed after a heartbreaking 5–4 loss in a match they said they were capable of winning.
But the battle for the Slugs didn’t stop there.
After losing to Kenyon, the Slugs were booted out of the championship bracket and into the consolation bracket, where they managed to pull a 9–0 defeat over Trinity, ranked No.8. After losing to Gustavus Adolphus, No.6, in the next round, however, the team had little to celebrate.
Despite feeling a little frustrated as a result of a less-than-perfect weekend, the Slugs said they are learning from their mistakes.
“It was a series of close, heartbreaking matches,” starter senior Colin Mark-Griffin said. “Only a couple of points here and there make the difference — this was anyone’s game.”
Assistant coach Bryce Parmelly had a slightly different view on the weekend.
“From [my] standpoint, it was a wonderful tournament. It got the guys hungry,” he said. “They want to win. It also shows us who we’re going to have to play at NCAA.”
The UCSC men’s tennis team has a highly respected and decorated past. With six NCAA titles under its belt, the most recent of which was earned in 2007, the team could justify its claim as one of the most successful sports programs in UCSC history.
With a diverse roster that seats five seniors on an eight-person lineup, the Slugs are relying on their experience and maturity to help pull themselves through the season.
“We definitely know what it takes to win,” Max Liberty-Point said. “All of the seniors here really want to give it one final push.”
Liberty-Point was one of several members of the 2007 team who contributed to the Slug’s sixth NCAA title.
Despite the outcome of the tournament last weekend, the team intends to bring home one more title for UCSC this year.
“Are we favored? No, but we certainly feel as if we’re in contention,” Parmelly said. “We might not have the most talent, but we consider ourselves the most experienced and most mature team. A talented [player] with no experience will collapse under pressure from big matches.”
Coaches and players agree that this is a realistic goal.
“We’re right [at the top],” Gendelman said. “We’re definitely one of the best schools in the nation. We can and we do deserve to be near the top. It’s the beginning of the season, so we all have high hopes, but I do think that we have pretty good chances of winning the NCAA tournament this year.”
<i>The men’s tennis team will be hosting two matches this month: Wednesday, March 11 against Swarthmore, and Friday, March 13 against Kenyon.</i>
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