Tennis teams using talent, style, patriotism to win

By Will Kennedy

First, the bad news: Macalester men’s and women’s tennis suffered defeats by wide margins at the hands of their St. Thomas counterparts last week. The good news: despite these respective setbacks against their Summit Avenue rivals, both teams are playing the best tennis Mac has seen in years. At 4-2, the women in particular have made the case that they are one of the MIAC’s elite teams.

“From the beginning our goal was to make the conference tournament,” Captain Jenna Harris ’08 said. “That looks like it shouldn’t be a problem for us.”

The top six conference teams qualify for the end of the year tournament, and with Macalester tied for third with St. Benedict’s, Harris’ confidence seems justified.

The loss to St. Thomas ended a five-match winning streak and came as a blow to the Scots who thought they could compete for the league’s second spot.

Angie Horner ’10 improved her team best singles record to 12-1, but picked up the only victory in the match. The team’s other MIAC loss came against nationally-ranked Gustavus Adolphus College.

In spite of the rough match, Harris thinks that the Scots can challenge any other team and their record so far suggests this is true. Macalester has slammed most of its league opposition this season, beating St Mary’s, St. Kate’s and Hamline all by a score of 8-1.

“We’re kicking some butt,” Harris said. “When you have a team that you really like and like playing for, you tend to care more about the matches; you don’t want to let the team down.”

Chemistry and coaching have played a role in turning around a program that won only one game in 2006. Harris credits the enthusiasm and support of her teammates, but also Head Coach Jason Muhl and his efforts to rebuild the Scots after past difficulties.

“The team has done outstanding,” Harris said. “This is definitely the best season from my four years at Mac.”

Men’s tennis is also unquestionably having their best season since 2005. With a 2-3 record in the MIAC, the Scots have won more conference matches than they did in the past three years combined.

“We’ve been doing a great job,” men’s captain Brad Goldstein ’08 said. “We’ve been intoxicatingly good at the net; we’ve been playing with class and we’ve been playing with style.”

Last week’s 2-7 loss to St. Thomas may have looked familiar to people who have followed Macalester men’s tennis in the past; but scrutinizing the box score revealed a much closer game than the results indicated. Three matches Mac lost were decided by two games or less and, according to Goldstein, with a little luck the outcome could have been different. “A couple of balls here or there and it could have been our match,” he said.

Veteran Aaron Heerboth ’08 picked up a team leading tenth singles victory for the Scots at the number two position, while Charlie Edelman ’09 and Titus Levy ’10 won at the number three doubles slot.

Before this loss the Scots had an opportunity to be on the other side of a blowout this year, beating Hamline 9-0. Winning MIAC games is not the only unusual thing the Scots have been doing lately. “Before every Match I give a little speech,” Goldstein said. “I tell them, ‘you can win for yourself; you can win for your team; or you can win for your country:’ then we go straight into a USA chant.we strive to win for the red, white and blue.”

While Goldstein added that the Scots’ goal is to be the best looking team in the MIAC, his squad currently finds itself just a game out of the last qualifying spot for the conference tournament.

If the team can continue to find ways to win MIAC games, whatever their motivation, Goldstein and his teammates may have to revise their aspirations to include a run in the postseason, potentially leading to another somewhat unusual situation: two Macalester teams in the playoffs.