Defying that conventional strategy, the St. Olaf mens tennis team opened their indoor season with matches against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Gustavus and St. Cloud State University, an NCAA Division II school.
St. Olaf played well in their opening match against Eau Claire, despite losing 8-1. Ryan Pederson 08 won a match for the Oles, and other members of the squad played well, despite losing critical points which could have swung the match in the Oles favor.
We definitely had first match jitters, Bryon MacDonald 07 said. In my mind, Eau Claire is a match we could have won. We beat them last year, and our doubles team is as good as theirs.
The Gusties, ranked seventh nationally, managed to down the Oles 9-0, as did St. Cloud State. St. Olaf players earned good points during these matches, and ultimately these early season experiences should prepare them for conference opponents down the road.
In addition to a much more challenging schedule, head coach Scott Nesbit has changed the teams practice schedule to emphasize fundamentals and game situations.
Coach [Nesbit] is really emphasizing drills this year, and hes having us play matches every week, MacDonald said. Its a bit different from what we did last year, but I think it will help us. Playing teams like Gustavus and St. Cloud early in the season should have the same effect. Well be ready for conference matches.
The St. Olaf womens tennis team shared a similar fate against Gustavus, falling to the Gusties 9-0. However, the women held their own against St. Cloud State, losing by a narrow margin of 6-3. Beth Erie 05 earned a number one singles win for St. Olaf and Jorie Steffen 07 did the same in the sixth slot. Lauren Benson 06 and Emily Eggert 06 earned a doubles victory over the Huskies as well.
Like their colleagues on the mens team, the ladies are in the midst of a very difficult early-season schedule. However, their solid play against Gustavus and St. Cloud State should give St. Olaf fans good reason to be excited for the rest of the season. The team hopes that this early experience, paired with good practice time, will prepare them for the stiff competition they will face in the MIAC.
I wouldnt say that our future opponents will be easier or harder than Gustavus and St. Cloud, Elizabeth Greener 07 said. But I do think were getting much better every day. Coach has been really focused in helping us find our weak spots and correcting them in practice. Well fix our mistakes and well be well-prepared for future matches.
The veteran womens roster includes only one first-year player and boasts seven juniors and seniors. The Oles will undoubtedly rely on their experience and maturity to gain an advantage over opponents this season.
The St. Olaf women will travel to St. Marys Saturday for a 10 a.m. match. The mens team will play its next match on Friday against St. Marys in Winona, Minn. starting at 5:30 pm.