The Macalester Men’s Tennis Team enters its late season run finely poised. With four matches still to be played in the regular season, all of them in the MIAC, the team is 6-7 (2-3 MIAC). They have notched conference victories over Saint Mary’s University and Concordia College while falling to Saint John’s University, Gustavus Adolphus College and Bethel University.
At press time, the team was preparing for their match against St. Thomas University on Saturday. This coming thursday, they will host St. Olaf University, and will travel to Carleton College and Hamline University to round off the conference season. The unique nature of MIAC tennis means that some teams have already played all nine conference tennis matches, while some, like Macalester, have a lot of tennis to go.
Players up and down the team state that making the playoffs is crucial; Hardt Bergmann ’17, Aidan Tirpack ’18 and Joshua Doyle ’18 all echoed the team’s desire to be one of the five MIAC teams to play playoff tennis.
“We have four more conference matches coming up, and of those four I think the most crucial ones are against Hamline and St. Olaf,” Tirpack said when he spoke to the Mac Weekly before the team’s 6-3 loss to Bethel. “We can still make it to the conference tournament if we beat St. Olaf and Hamline. Since they are toward the bottom of the conference, we are quite confident that we can win those matches. It’s just a matter of playing at the level we know we can from here on out.”
While their goals are still attainable, there have been frustrations for Macalester this season. Players all over the lineup have battled injuries, which have forced shifts in the lineup from game to game. That has frustrated no one more than Doyle, the team’s No. 1 singles player, who has struggled with both injury and illness over the course of the season.
“The year has been tough for me personally because I’ve been dealing with wrist pain and just recently recovered from the flu,” he said, before going on to note that the most important thing that has recently happened to the team is the growth of its fighting spirit. “The team overall is motivated and performing well, so that’s the most important development.”
Doyle’s absence was most keenly felt in the April 1 match against Saint John’s, when the Scots fell 7-2 after dropping a number of tight matches. The Johnnies have struggled in conference tennis action, and their only win in MIAC play came against that shorthanded Macalester team. Yet, as Doyle alluded to, the spirit within the team remains strong, and the playoffs are firmly in their sights.
That spirit has shone through in all facets of the line-up, as the Scots have enjoyed strong performances from a variety of players.
“Everyone up and down the line-up is crucial to our success,” said Bergmann. “Two people who I think have done an exceptional job playing at higher spots in the line-up than they did last year are Aidan Tirpack (No. 2 singles) and Peter Willenborg (’19, No. 4 singles). Aidan moved up a spot from No. 3 singles last year and Peter has move all the way up from No. 6 singles. This is not an easy thing to do, yet both of them have come up with some very good wins against tough opponents this year. That is huge for us after losing two seniors to graduation after last season.”
If the Scots are to achieve their goals, more big performances will be needed, starting against St. Thomas. There will undoubtedly be tough match-ups ahead, but Macalester can take solace in the different makeup of the conference standings.
“The MIAC is having very different results than it usually does, so it will be interesting to see how the standings work out by the end of the season,” Tirpack said.
The story of Macalester’s season will be written over the next couple of weeks. Their next chapter begins against St. Thomas on April 22nd.