Making presence felt, men's tennis pushes for playoffs

By Patrick Murphy

Following the recent trend of Macalester teams on the rise, the men’s tennis team is on the upswing, as it has emerged as a conference contender this spring. Though young, the team is on pace for the best season in recent years.After going 6-12 in 2008 and 10-11 in 2009, Mac men’s tennis is currently an impressive 10-3 on the season. Despite graduating their top player after last year, the Scots are on fire as conference play gets into full swing, boasting a six-match winning streak after a 5-4 upset of Bethel last Saturday at Hayden Courts.

Thanks in large part to the superb play of Mike Coleman ’11, Justin Margolies ’11, and Max Edwards ’13, the Scots were able to topple the formidable Bethel squad. Bethel finished 3rd last season in the MIAC, behind only conference powerhouses Gustavus and Carleton. The victory was one of the Scots’ best in recent years. Coleman, an all-conference singles and doubles player last year, led the charge with a three set victory at No. 1 singles and a victory at No. 1 doubles with primary doubles partner, Paul Mairet ’11. Margolies won in straight sets at No. 6 singles and won his seventh doubles match in a row easily at No. 3 doubles with partner Edwards. Edwards also picked up a victory at No. 5 singles.

“The match was big for 3 reasons,” Chris Fowler ’12 explained. “One, Bethel is a perennial top MIAC team, and their line-up is relatively unchanged from last year. Two, we lost 8-1 last year. Three, if we beat Hamline and Concordia, two teams we crushed last year and are currently ranked lower than us, we will make it into the conference tournament.”

Although he lost by the slim margin of 7-5, 6-4 in the Bethel match, Fowler has been a strong performer for the team this season. Currently playing No. 2 singles, Fowler has also played at No. 1 singles for five matches this season.

“After being sidelined with an injury since last July, I was really happy with my play indoors early in the season,” Fowler said. “I’m still adjusting to outdoor play, but hopefully, I’ll peak in time for Conference play.”

In the 2010 Preseason Coaches’ Poll the Scots were projected to be the seventh best team in the conference. Standing at fourth in the conference with a 2-1 conference record, the Scots are certainly exceeding expectations thus far.

“Based on the MIAC pre-season poll, we needed to beat one of St. Olaf, Bethel, or St. Johns to get into the tournament,” Fowler said. “We just beat Bethel and St. Olaf lost to a team we destroyed. There’s definitely a good feeling in practice.”

With the Scots’ six remaining matches all against MIAC teams, there will be little room for error as the team aims to make its first conference tournament in head coach Jason Muhl’s five seasons with the team. The Scots must finish in the top six in the conference order to qualify for the MIAC tournament in early May.

The competition will be tough from here on out, but if the team is able to maintain its level of play, a MIAC playoff birth will likely await.

After playing four matches in five days, the team is currently on a two-week break. They return to action on Saturday, April 10 at home against conference rival, St. John’s. April 10 is also National Student-Athlete day, which means free t-shirts and food abound for spectators at the match.