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ISSUE 117 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/30/2004

Men claim 5-4 victory over Concordia in MIAC tourney

By Joel Stjernholm
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 30, 2004

In a fitting end to a season marked by challenge and improvement, the St. Olaf mens tennis team earned a fifth place finish Saturday in the MIAC conference tournament.

The team opened tournament play on Friday with a 6-3 victory against Macalester College. Despite their early momentum, the team fell to Carleton, the tournaments second seed, 7-2 in second round play. The Oles rebounded Saturday to defeat St. Marys 6-3 to move to the fifth place match. That victory was especially sweet, as St. Marys had defeated St. Olaf 6-3 a week earlier in regular season play.

In the fifth place game, the Oles met a surging Concordia team, the tournaments eighth seed that was coming off an upset victory over fifth seed Hamline. Confident and focused, the Oles edged Concordia 5-4 in one of the tournaments most exciting matches.

The Concordia match came down to senior Dan Cohens singles bout  the last match of the contest  which was moved indoors due to inclement weather. After losing the first set, Cohen battled back to win the second set. In the super tie-breaker, Cohen defeated his opponent 11-9, giving St. Olaf victory.

St. Olaf entered the tournament ranked seventh in the MIAC. After their fifth-place finish the team was tied for fifth in the overall conference standings.

While national powerhouse Gustavus marched to its sixteenth consecutive conference title, several upsets, close matches and excellent play throughout the tournament reinforced sentiments that the MIAC is one of Americas all-around toughest Division III tennis conferences.

Although conference play is over, observers expect MIAC teams to compete well in regional play.

Gustavus is great," coach Scott Nesbit said. "They will be serious contenders at the regional tournament, and Carleton will probably play in the regional tournament as well."

The tournament was particularly meaningful to brothers Ted and Tom Nagel 04 and Dan Cohen 04, who played their last competitive matches at the collegiate level. The brothers have played doubles together all four years.

"They could easily be the winningest doubles pair in St. Olaf tennis history," Nesbit said of the Nagels. The Nagels went undefeated as a tandem at this years conference tournament.

"Playing together for four years was a huge advantage," Tom Nagel said. "Not many doubles pairs are together that long."

Ted Nagel went on to document the pairs success at the tournament.

"We needed to win thirty-two games in the tournament," Ted Nagel said. "We ended up winning those thirty-two games, and only losing four."

Having completed their season, the team  a particularly close group  now faces the prospect of bidding farewell to cherished senior players, while looking forward and preparing for next season.

"It will be tough to fill in for Dan Cohen and the Nagels," said team member Bryon McDonald 07. "They are great guys, and great players  well miss them."

Nesbit also emphasized the importance of the teams senior leaders.

"Our three seniors  Dan, Tom, and Ted  have given a lot to our program," Nesbit said. "It will be tough to replace them, and its tough to see them go. But, theyve played here for four years  its time to move on."

Reflecting on their collegiate careers, neither of the Nagels expressed regret.

"It was a great decision to come here and play for Coach Nesbit," said Tom Nagel. "Hes helped us to develop as tennis players, but has encouraged us to grow as students as well. He was a mentor to us."

Looking to next season, Coach Nesbit believes it is too early to determine how his squad will stack up against opponents in the ultra-competitive MIAC.

"Success next year will depend a lot on who we can recruit," said Nesbit. "Two or three really good players can make a huge difference in this game."

Nesbit was also very optimistic about his returning players.

"Ill be in touch with the team over the summer, he said. Well discuss their strengths and the areas of their games they can improve. Hopefully, they will go out and get better."

By all traditional measures, this season was a success; a fifth place finish in mens MIAC tennis is outstanding. Next year, the Oles will look to build a team in the absence of the Nagels and Cohen  no easy task. However, if the competitiveness and work ethic that carried the Oles this season triggers off-season improvement, St. Olaf will prove stiff competition for MIAC opponents next spring.

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