Whitman Wire

Tennis Season Starts to Heat Up

Kyle Howe

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After a great season in which the women’s tennis team made it to the national tournament last year, Whitman’s women look to capitalize on the momentum to carry them even farther this season, while the men aim to build upon their tradition of regional success.

“I am so excited for this season. So far, we are having so much fun and playing great tennis. I feel great about this season and think we’re only going to keep getting better as the weeks go on,” said senior Alyssa Roberg, a┬árecent Northwest Conference student athlete of the week.

The women’s team is currently 3-0 in conference and 4-0 overall, giving them sole control over first place in the Northwest Conference (NWC). With wins against UC Santa Cruz, Linfield, Lewis & Clark and Willamette, the women’s team looks poised to continue their success into the spring.

“We have performed well in all our conference matches so far. We haven’t lost more than two matches against any of the teams. We weren’t sure what to expect from Lewis & Clark since their top three singles players are all highly-ranked freshmen, but we came out fired up and showed them what we’re made of. Our 5-4 win over UCSC to start the season was also huge, and gets us ready for the type of competition we will see over spring break when we play all nationally-ranked teams,” said Roberg.

With a strong start to the season, the women’s team looks to continue the success of last year and add to it through further development as a program.

“I think each season we improve. We made it to nationals last season and secured a national ranking. I think that this year we will improve on both of those fronts. We always have so much fun, and I think we will use our great energy and togetherness to perform even better than last year,” said Roberg.

On the men’s side of the sport, the players looks to keep their conference success rolling and continue the success they had last year when they won a fifth NWC title and rose to a ranking of eighth in the nation. The team has not lost a NWC match since April of 2006.

The season has hit a minor road bump due to injuries, but a number of other players have had the opportunity to step up.

“The season has been interesting so far, to say the least. We’ve had guys injured all over the place. Most notably James Rivers is out for a bit with a dislocated shoulder, and as a guy who got to the national championship in doubles that will certainly hurt us, but he’ll be back. The injuries have been a blessing in disguise, though. The injuries gave other people a chance to step up and get good match experience, which in a sport as mental as tennis is absolutely crucial,” said senior Matt Tesmond.

The team is currently 1-1 overall and 1-0 in conference after one match of conference play against Willamette where they cruised to a 7-2 victory, and a loss to Lewis-Clark State 3-6.

“LC State always gives us a tough match. They are consistently ranked in the top 20 of the NAIA and have some solid players. We went in with only one returning starter in the singles lineup, and two of the three doubles teams were playing together for the first time this year. Despite the lack of experience, I think everyone eventually settled in and was able to dig in and play hard,” said Tesmond.

The team was far more successful in their league match, where it continued its NWC dominance.

“Willamette is an interesting team. Overall they are a team that is not very strong, but they have one of the best players in the nation. We dominated in the number two and three doubles, and the singles wins were pretty convincing. It was good to take care of business against a weaker opponent and will hopefully foreshadow the rest of our conference matches,” said Tesmond.

Despite a rough start to the year, the team looks to improve and continue to better themselves.

“I think this year we come in with a lot more uncertainty. We lost three core players, but also come in with a lot of guys who have been in the rigorous Whitman tennis system for one, two or three years. Due to injury we have not gotten to see our roster at full strength and probably won’t get to until much later in the year,” said Tesmond.

The team looks forward to the matches ahead, which will be full of many challenges that the team never encountered last year.

“Coach Northam has put together an amazing schedule full of top-20 and top-10 teams. Last year we really only got to play two or three teams that were able to stay in the top 20. This year we play six matches against teams in the top 25, almost all of whom are in the top 10 or have top 10 potential,” said Tesmond.

Regardless of any troubles, the team is excited for what the rest of the season has to give.

“Overall I think this year will certainly come with more struggle than last year, but knowing the guys we have on this team, I think those struggles and the tough schedule are going to prepare us for a late season push full of big matches and our best tennis,” said Tesmond.

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Tennis Season Starts to Heat Up