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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Men meet expectations

By Ken Foote
Executive Editor

Friday, May 6, 2005

Consistency is the goal of any athletic team. Athletes look to perform at the highest level day in and day out. Hours of practice are predicated on repeating a skill until it becomes second nature – a weapon to be used whenever the situation presents itself. The St. Olaf men’s tennis team, as well as the top three seeds from the regular season, displayed a level of consistency at last weekend‘s MIAC Championships.

Gustavus ran away with their 17th consecutive, and 40th overall, title with a 9-0 thrashing of Carleton in the final. The Oles fell to Concordia 7-2 in the fifth-place match, garnering sixth.

Despite defending their sixth-place conference seeding at the MIAC tournament, consistency has been anything but a given for the Oles this spring.

“We had a good year considering how young we were,” team captain Mike Matsuura ’06 said. “It was an up and down year, but that’s what happens with a young lineup – the consistency isn’t always there.”

When all players were healthy, the team started four first years, two sophomores and Matsuura as the lone upperclassmen.

“We lost a couple of matches we probably shouldn’t have, but you can’t blame that all on youth,” Matsuura said. “We also had a few matches where we played better than expected. Consistency will be something that improves next year with everyone coming back.”

The tournament started Friday for the Oles in a quarterfinal showdown with St. Thomas. The Tommies beat the Oles 8-1 March 12 and picked up right where they left off, rolling to a 9-0 victory.

The men awoke early Saturday morning for an 8 a.m. matchup with St. Mary’s. The Cardinals finished the regular season tied for sixth with the Oles, but came into the conference tournament seeded seventh thanks to a 5-4 St. Olaf win Feb. 25.

Things would again come down to the wire against the Cardinals with a familiar scene unfolding.

St. Mary’s took number one and number three doubles and the top two singles matches. Matsuura and Chase Donaldson ’07 teamed up to prevent a potentially fatal St. Mary’s double sweep, earning an 8-5 win. The Oles responded by claiming the number four, five and six singles matches, leaving the number three contest as the deciding point, the same scenario as in February, in which Matsuura came through in a super-breaker to procure the Ole win.

Saturday, Matsuura dropped the first set of the deciding match, but rebounded to force the super-breaker.

“I wasn’t aware that the score was tied, but I knew everyone was done and it was going to be close,” Matsuura said about the in-game tension. “I didn’t want to let the team down; it’s important not to go 0-3 at the conference tournament.”

Just as he had in February, Matsuura took control early in the super-breaker, winning the race to 10 points handily, 10-5.

The win allowed the Oles a chance to finish fifth, thus winning the consolation side of the bracket, but Concordia won five of the six singles matches to seal the deal en route to a 7-2 win Saturday. Matsuura and Donaldson registered the only doubles win and Ryan Pederson ’08 won at number one singles.

With a sixth-place finish in hand, Matsuura and the men’s team are optimistic about next season.

“We did about what we expected and look forward to next year,” Matsuura said. “We can makes some strides and to have a chance to do something good.”

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