Over spring break, the men’s tennis team completed a busy schedule of five games in five days from Friday, March 7 to Monday, March 11. The Tigers came away with a 4-1 record overall from the West Coast road trip, where they competed against some of the top teams in the country. They played Whitman College (Wash.), UC Santa Cruz, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) all in Walla Walla, Wash., then traveled to California, where they faced off against Pomona-Pitzer at home and then University of Redlands at home.
The team started off the trip with a 5-4 victory over Whitman on Friday, March 7. After falling behind 2-1 in doubles, the men’s team rallied in doubles and won the match at the No. 6 singles line when sophomore Connor Dunn pulled out the win. The next day, Saturday, March 8, the Tigers played UC Santa Cruz in the morning. The Tigers prevailed and ended up winning the match. Trinity went ahead in doubles after winning two of the three, and earned the win overall after Dunn grabbed the win at No. 5 singles. Later in the day, Trinity played their third match overall and fell 8-1 to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The only point Trinity nabbed during that match was when junior Jordan Mayer won at No. 5 singles.
“I think the hardest match was by far against CMS. It was on the back end of a double-header day against a team littered with high-end recruits. We got swept in dubs, which was deflating. When it would’ve been so easy to give up and just accept defeat, our guys bounced back and fought hard in singles with every match being extremely competitive. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get those tight ones to fall our way,” Mayer said.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps wrapped up the Washington games before heading down to California, where they played Pomona-Pitzer at home on Saturday, March 9. Once again, the Tigers were down 2-1 after doubles but managed to win 5-4. The last game for the team came on Monday, March 11, when they travelled to Redlands, Calif., to play University of Redlands. The Tigers won 7-2 overall after winning all three doubles matches and four of the six singles matches.
“Our best match was our last of the trip, against Redlands. They were ranked #15, and playing on their home courts they had a chip on their shoulder and something to prove to us. However, our doubles was able to step up and get us a 3-0 lead, which was all the more impressive because we had been struggling in doubles up to that point. We were then able to close the match in singles with quick wins at five and six,” Dunn said. “We also showed excellent fight in singles that match, as our top four singles players all lost their first sets, and all but one of them fought back to win their second sets even after we had clinched the match, two of them eventually winning. Overall, a great match from top to bottom.”
The Tigers were very content with their matches overall, despite the loss against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“Overall I was very pleased with the West Coast trip. We went 4-1 and beat the teams we should’ve, and, unfortunately, lost to the team we should have (on paper). Our biggest strength was definitely our resiliency. There were so many times when momentum had shifted to the other team late in the dual match and yet our guys responded,” Mayer said.
Head coach Russell McMindes adds, “We did a really good job overall. The only one we lost to was CMS, who have pretty much established that they are the top team in the country. Everybody we played was ranked in the top 15 in the nation.”
Heading into the rest of the season, the tennis team’s main focus is on improving their doubles consistency.
“For the rest of the season, we want to continue to polish the singles and work on doubles. our singles performances have been very consistent at a very high level, but our doubles have been a little inconsistent and not there yet, and also staying healthy and fit,” McMindes said.
“We need to continue to improve on our doubles. 3-0 sweeps need to be a more frequent occasion, and we need to be taking the lead after dubs more times than not. Our singles lineup is very good, and if we can continue to do what we have been doing in singles, this should be a very good year. Our team is feeling very prepared and just very excited heading into the postseason. Compared to last year, I think we’re definitely in a better spot because our doubles is starting to click and I believe our singles lineup is better than last year.”
That being said, the Tigers feel as though, if they are able to improve their doubles play and keep up the quality of play at singles, they can do big things this year.
“I think we have a legitimate shot at the title this year””we have a great group of guys who support each other and amazing leaders who have been stepping up time and again in the big moments. When we get everyone healthy, and are playing as well as I know we can, I don’t think there’s anyone who we can’t beat,” Dunn said.
Next up for the Tigers is Hardin-Simmons University, Saturday, March 29 at 9 a.m. at home.