Tennis teams set ambitious goals

By Josh Springer

February marks the beginning of the long and competitive tennis season. Much preparation and thought, however, has already gone into the seasons as the Macalester men’s and women’s teams hammer out goals and ambitions before their first competitions.A combination of the Minnesota weather and the construction on the MARC has forced both teams to practice at the 98th Street courts in Bloomington. Although practice times run much later than the average Macalester team meeting, neither the men nor women seem phased by present conditions. Head Coach Jason Muhl emphasizes both team’s fantastic leadership, positive attitudes, and spirited motivation as key attributes leading into competitive play.

Moreover, the Scots seek to build on the recent momentum gained from strong and healthy recruiting classes. Both teams bring youth and energy onto the courts as they prepare for their first several matches of the season.

The men will play on Feb. 10 for their first couple of matches against non-conference rivals Ripon (Wis.) and UW-Eau Claire. The women will open the season with an important conference match against St. Olaf on Feb. 15.

Late last September, the women’s team showed real promise at the Wilson/ITA Midwest Region Championships, which took place at Gustavus Adolphus College. Led by singles performer Angie Horner ’10, a transfer student from Mount Holyoke College (Mass.), the Scots were able to attain a pre-season national ranking leading into the Spring.

Currently, the doubles team composed of Horner and Stephanie Lee ’10 is ranked 15th in the central division, according to a recent ITA Division III poll.

Abby Citrin ’11, Jenna Harris ’08 and Anna Peschel ’08 had strong performances as well in the Gustavus Fall Invitational, held at the same time as the ITA Championships last September. Harris and Peschel head the team as senior captains, both of whom have demonstrated excitement about the looming season. “This is the strongest team we’ve had in the 4 years I’ve been here,” Harris said.

The women, who finished with three MIAC victories last season and an overall record of 6-12, will attempt to challenge more conference opponents this spring. Particularly, the team expressed their desire to beat Macalester’s infamous Summit Avenue rivals, St. Thomas. “We’re going to take down the Tommies!” Harris said.

Muhl is focusing his sights on the women’s team finishing among the top 6 teams in the conference. This accomplishment would grant the women a trip to postseason, playoff competition, a feat that has not been achieved in recent years.

“We’ve played together for a while now, had the time to work out lasting kinks, and as a result, we have high expectations for the season,” Peschel said. “There is a lot of talent on this team.”

Ever since the 2005 season, the men’s team has struggled to win a conference match against a MIAC rival. Last spring, the men finished 7-10 overall, but 0-9 in conference play. “Our primary goal is to win a MIAC match,” said Brad Goldstein ’08. “But we also want to be the best sportsmen and the most elegant athletes.”

With help from an outstanding recruiting class, the Scots may very well be on their way to accomplishing preliminary goals. Freshman newcomers Stefan Aune ’11, Paul Mairet ’11, and Justin Margolies ’11 will have an immediate impact on the team’s performance Muhl said. “We have a very young team with three freshman starting in our singles line-up.”

Currently, there are eight first-year players to cap off the team’s preseason roster. “The freshman lack age, but they have the heart of champions,” Goldstein said jovially.

Aaron Heebroth ’08 and Goldstein, who earned all-conference honors last year as a singles player, will lead the team as captains and as the only two seniors. The men graduated only two seniors last year, leaving much room for growth and improvement. “We miss those guys, but our average percentage of body fat is for sure lower than last season,” Goldstein said.

Edelman ’09 and Titus Levy ’10 return to the line-up after winning a majority of their singles matches last season. With a mixture of youth and experience, the men’s team will look to capitalize on this season’s goals.

Both men’s and women’s teams compete in one of the country’s most competitive conferences. The MIAC’s perennial powerhouse Gustavus Adolphus consistently ranks and competes on the national level along with other conference standouts. Jokingly, Goldstein alludes to “possible substance abuse as an explanation” for the success of rival conference teams.

Coach Muhl points to importance of hard work, concentration, and also sportsmanship in every MIAC match this season. “These are the most enjoyable teams I’ve ever coached,” Muhl said. “They’re so positive and never complain.”

Starting the season on a positive note will reinforce the team’s ambitious goals for the late winter and spring. “We are always looking to improve and build on the successes from previous seasons,” Muhl concluded. A deep roster blended with optimistic attitudes across the board makes improvement look imminent in the early preparation before competitive play.