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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

Royal flush: Bethel no match for Erie, men in 6-3 win

By Joel Stjernholm
Sports Editor


Friday, April 15, 2005

The St. Olaf men’s tennis team traveled to Bethel Saturday, defeating the Royals 6-3 in St. Paul. With the victory, the men leveled their conference record at 3-3, earning sixth place in the MIAC standings just behind crosstown rival Carleton.

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. John’s, 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 team’s 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. John’s 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 season’s 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. John’s. The match begins at 11 a.m.





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