Men’s Tennis Accepts Nothing but Success this Season

Mens+Tennis+Accepts+Nothing+but+Success+this+Season

Marah Alindogan

If you walk into Sherwood Athletic Center, you will see banner after banner hanging on the rafters of George Ball Court commemorating the success of the nationally ranked Whitman College men’s tennis team. The program has won six of the past Northwest Conference championships and is now currently ranked 16th in the nation.

Even after coming off a NWC championship season with appearances both as a team and as individuals at the NCAA tournament, last season left the team with a sour taste. The haunting question of “What if?” is the sole motivator for the returners of last year’s squad.

“Last year was interesting because we lost two starters to graduation, and we were down four starters off the bat due to injuries. We started and finished the year nationally ranked. Under the circumstances it was a good season. Yet, it was still a missed opportunity. We could’ve done better,” said junior Colton Malesovas.

Senior Andy Riggs sees last season’s outcome as the team’s sole motivator.

“There were definitely many issues––we were never healthy, there were holes in the lineup. That’s not the case now. Looking back, it was successful. Now it’s a full lineup. Why can’t we do better?” said Riggs.

With last season behind them, the team has begun the season with a hot start. They are currently 2-0 in conference after soundly defeating Willamette University and Linfield College.

And yet, these regular season matches are only stepping stones towards the team’s ultimate goal.

“Winning the national championship is what we were talking about since last year. It is not acceptable to lose in the first round. A lot of guys have bought in to the training program since then. It all started in the summer, and I have seen huge improvement individually and as a team,” said Riggs.

First-year Parker Silverman also talks about the team’s hunger for a national championship.

“This year we are playing three teams who are all top 10 in the nation. With our increased schedule strength, strong upperclassmen presence, elite coaching and young talent, we have really set the bar high for ourselves. We want the national championship, and we want it now,” said Silverman.

With the intense training program mixed with the strong team camaraderie that Riggs, Malesovas and Silverman describe, the men’s tennis team has the recipe to be nothing but successful.

Specifically, both Riggs and Malesovas describe the intensity of the challenging matches the team has during preseason to determine the match lineups.

“It is really tough because Division III does not have the luxury of a fall season like Division I does. Coming into the season where you have guys fighting for spots, you have to make the team play against each other. It is something that we wouldn’t do if we didn’t have to,” said Malesovas.

Riggs also expresses the hardship of competing with team members for such limited spots.

“It sucks competing against people you care about,” said Riggs.

This competitive environment is balanced with the strong relationships that the players even describe as a brotherhood within the team.

“I have the best teammates in the world. They have made me feel a part of something, and they let me know how much I mean to the team. I never feel less important than them, and that has been one of the more humbling experiences of my life,” said Silverman.

Both Riggs and Malesovas believe Head Coach Jeff Northam has played a significant role in fostering a positive team environment.

“It’s funny; what separates him is what he does off the court. He goes so far to make sure our experiences and relationships are great here at Whitman. It’s interesting because it has nothing to do with tennis,” said Riggs.

Malesovas also describes Northam’s mindset about team unity.

“He believes the people on the team are the people you spend the most time with and the people you care most about. Coach always makes sure we are all super tight and work toward the same direction.”

With a competitive zeal and bonds that cannot be broken, it is no wonder the men’s tennis team is a national powerhouse. The team also likes to have fun as well.

“Our practices are goofy and rambunctious––rap [or] techno music in the background, people pegging each other with balls and guys squirting water in each other’s faces. We love to make fun of each other, but it is always in good spirit,” said Silverman.

Though there is no denying that the team has talent left and right, that is not what the players hang their hats on. In fact, it is something that is not reflected in statistics or records broken.

“Our team chemistry and our brotherhood mentality has really propelled us to successful results and given us life long friends. Being on the team comes to an end at some point, and because of that we try to make as many memories as possible,” said Silverman.