In singles competition, Drew Erie 08 pulled out a close win in the number two match. Mike Matsuura 06 took the number three match, Eric Brandenburg 08 dominated the number four match and Chase Donaldson 07 was victorious in the number five match. The Oles also fared well in doubles play: Matsuura and Donaldson won the number two match and Erie and David Gruner 08 won the number three match.
The Oles lost the number one singles, number six singles and number one doubles matches, but the men were competitive in all three matches. In both singles losses, the greatest margin of victory in any set was 6-3.
The MIAC is notorious for its perennially stiff tennis competition, and this season confirms that reputation. Three teams St. Johns, Gustavus and St. Thomas are undefeated in conference play, while Concordia and Carleton are currently dueling for fourth at 3-2. When their overall records are combined, the Johnnies, Gusties and Tommies have collectively posted 37 wins and just seven losses.
Though St. Olaf graduated its top two players last season, MIAC tennis observers are hesitant to label this season a rebuilding year for the team. Young Oles have quickly acclimated to collegiate competition, preventing the team from falling in MIAC standings. Five of the teams six first-year players are currently in starting roles, and Donaldson and Bryon McDonald 07 have played well in their second year with the team. Matsuura is the only starter on the team from the junior class, and there are no seniors on the current roster.
The Oles must still face Carleton, St. Johns and Macalester in regular season play, but with the conference tournament a mere three weeks away, the Oles will look to use those matches to prepare for postseason play. Last year, the Oles managed to upset Concordia in their final tournament match, winning the last singles match in a dramatic tiebreaker. That victory allowed the Oles to capture fifth place at the tournament, a very respectable mark considering their nationally-recognized competition.
This seasons tournament will certainly not be any easier, for Gustavus is likely to defend their title successfully. However, a healthy, hungry St. Olaf team will be a potent, perhaps underestimated, threat to postseason opponents.
The Oles play their next match on Saturday in St. Cloud, Minn. against St. Johns. The match begins at 11 a.m.