Spring semester is now in full swing and so are the racquets of Macalester Men’s Tennis. The close-knit team of nine is headed up by captain Max Soghikian ’14. “We’ve built an atmosphere of camaraderie and teamwork – and this season we want to win for each other,” Soghikian said.
Team tennis is contested in nine matches: six singles and three doubles. It is a different dynamic than the individual nature of professional tennis. “Everyone thinks of tennis as a really polite etiquette sport, but in college tennis everyone is just yelling, screaming, celebrating when they win points,” Soghikian said.
In its first few matches the team is 1-2 overall, and 0-1 in MIAC play. Brian Utz ‘16 (Rochester, Minn.) has led the team, playing in the No. 1 singles slot and teaming up with Alasdair McClintic ’17 (Geneva, Switzerland) to form the top doubles team. “It’s early and I think we’re just trying to find our game right now, but as time goes on we’ll become more consistent,” Utz said.
Soghikian, a 2013 All-MIAC selection, is undefeated in his first three games playing at No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles.
This season the Scots are paying special attention to their doubles performance. “Playing doubles helps your singles game because you’re still serving, still volleying, still hitting groundstrokes,” Soghikian said. “And it’s paid off so far. Our doubles teams have gotten stronger and are winning right now.”
Last year, the Macalester Men’s Tennis team missed making the MIAC tournament with a loss in the squad’s final match. That’s not a fate the team plans on repeating this season. “In the past we’ve been fifth or sixth, so this year we’re shooting for at least fourth,” Soghikian said. “If we do really well maybe we can get third; maybe we can get first, you never know.”
“Every match in the MIAC is big because you only play each team once,” Utz said.
Over the past few years the MIAC and Midwest Regional have been home to some of the top talent in Division III Men’s Tennis.
Even though the team lost three key seniors to graduation, so did many of the other top squads in the MIAC. “I’m really excited about this year. We’ve got people stepping up and playing high level tennis,” said head coach Jason Muhl.
Macalester is also lucky to have brought in three talented freshman: Carl Bergmann (Mahtomedi, Minn.), Clay Creger (Portland, Ore.) and McClintic. And next fall Coach Muhl hopes another strong class will be joining the team, adding that “the future of MAC Men’s Tennis is extremely bright.”
Not so long ago, Soghikian was one of those new guys on the team. Hailing from Piedmont, Calif., he was looking for that high quality small liberal arts college but found that “just because a place looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’ll be a better fit.” Macalester, though, was the perfect fit, offering a supportive academic environment where Soghikian is currently working to double major in Biology and Chemistry before attending medical school as well as a close knit team to play with.
Soghikian is better known as ‘Soggy’ to his teammates to avoid confusion with other Maxes on the roster. “He’s a great teammate, great leader and always puts the team first,” Utz said.
Coach Muhl described Soghikian as mature and responsive. “He’s shown great development and growth as a leader,” Muhl said. “I can’t believe four years have gone by. I wish I could have them each for eight.”
In addition to his work on the court and in the classroom, Soghikian is the President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. “Our main goal is to act as a liaison between administration and athletes, relaying any concerns or questions,” Soghikian said. “Though we also try do a lot of community outreach, mostly involving athletes but also trying to bring in the entire Macalester community.”
SAAC plans and promotes events throughout the year including National Student Athlete Day, Dig Pink, Kick Cancer and Strike Out Heart Disease. This weekend SAAC is supporting the Polar Bear Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics of Minnesota. SAAC has organized a team to collect pledges and represent Macalester in the icy plunge into Lake Calhoun.
Over spring break the team will head to Hilton Head, SC. For Soghikian, it’s a nice change of pace. “Everyone enjoys being outside for a change and it’s a great bonding thing; the team is a lot closer after the trip,” he said.
While in South Carolina the team will play four matches, including one against fellow-MIAC school St. Mary’s, the outcome won’t count towards the conference standings.
As far as when the team will start playing tennis outdoors, the Scots are at the mercy of the weather: NCAA rules mandate for outside play that there cannot be any snow on the ground and it must be above 45 degrees.
The team is confident heading into the rest of season and ready to work hard together. “In this team atmosphere your team can change the outcome of your match,” Soghikian said. “If they are there cheering you on it pumps you up and gives you that drive. I love these guys for that feeling.”