Several Oles competed well, including Kristen Buchta 05 and Jorie Steffen 07, who won the number two and number six singles matches, respectively, giving the Oles their only victory tallies for the day.
The Oles lost several matches by exceptionally narrow margins, including the number four and number five singles matches, as well as the number three doubles match. Had those matches concluded favorably for St. Olaf, the Oles would have bested St. Kates 5-4.
MIAC competition has been particularly stiff this year, with Gustavus, St. Thomas, Carleton and St. Kates all posting undefeated conference records to date; their combined records are an outstanding 43-5. St. Bens is currently in fifth place with a conference record of 3-2, just one game ahead of St. Olaf.
In the final stretch of their season, the Oles will face Bethel, St. Bens, Carleton, and Macalester hardly a hospitable schedule. With Carleton and Macalester competing for conference titles and St. Bens fighting to stave off the Oles in fifth place, at least three of St. Olafs four remaining opponents will have plenty to play for. Bethel, the least accomplished of the four, has struggled through the 2005 season but should still be a strong competitor.
While their remaining opponents present a daunting season finale, the Oles should be well prepared for the challenge. In anticipation of the difficult MIAC season ahead, head coach Scott Nesbit scheduled several nationally-recognized programs, including Division II St. Cloud State, at the beginning of the season. Additionally, the Oles competed against several talented teams that they rarely, if ever, encounter at their a spring break tournament in South Carolina.
The women went 3-1 on that trip in their first outdoor competition of the 2005 spring season, defeating Olivet Nazarene, Whitman and Stevens Institute of Technology, while losing to Luther College.
Though the Oles have yet to upset a higher-ranked squad, they are a legitimate tournament threat. St. Olaf competed evenly with St. Kates and nearly edged St. Thomas. The teams youth is a potential tournament liability, but the Oles practice schedule this season was designed to emphasize match play, which should help younger players to acclimate to collegiate competition, and their rigorous practice habits will pay dividends as the Oles approach the conference tournament.
Moreover, the teams seniors should provide valuable veteran leadership come tournament time. Gustavus will be difficult to defeat, but if the Oles can remain healthy and rested through their final four matches, they could certainly defeat St. Thomas, St. Kates or Carleton in tournament play.
The womens tennis team plays Bethel next in Arden Hills, Minn. The match is scheduled for Saturday and is set to begin at 9 a.m.