Tennis ushers in a new era after breakthrough season

By Josh Springer

Since last year tennis at Macalester has evolved. A pair of teams that gave it their very best and still left the courts beaten in the past has developed a line-up of fierce, yet classy competitors. The women’s team, in particular, accomplished an incredible turnaround in the past several years, in large part thanks to strong coaching, talented recruits and a more confident mentality.The women’s team proved to be Macalester’s shinning star during the spring season. Sophomore transfer student Angie Horner ’10 led the way, achieving a nearly flawless 19-1 overall record. Her only loss in the season came from a nationally ranked Gustavus opponent.

Adding to the team’s celebratory list is Coach Jason Muhl’s recognition as MIAC Coach of the Year. Under his direction over the past three years, the women’s team has dramatically progressed from 1-9 in 2006, to 3-7 last year, and to a remarkable 8-2 conference record this season. The men, who went 0-9 in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons, won a pair of conference matches this year, exhibiting their own improvement with Muhl.

“We exceeded our expectations on the season, improving in the conference and in gaining confidence.” Muhl said speaking of the women. “Now we’re competitive.”

The women’s most successful campaign in decades came to a close last weekend in St. Peters. After beating the Carleton Knights for the second time this season, the women dropped the semi-final match to rival St. Thomas.

The match against St. Thomas was decided after seven games, the Scots having received two wins from Horner and teammate Stephanie Lee ’10 at No. 1 doubles and again from Horner at No. 1 singles. Due to the early decision, senior captains Anna Peschel ’08 and Jenna Harris ’08 were unable to finish their singles matches.
“We played them [St. Thomas] tougher,” Peschel said. “A lot of us were tired and sick.”

Peschel and Harris could not have dreamed of a much better senior season. “[This season] was an awesome way to end my senior year,” Peschel said. “It’s been really fun to be with Mac tennis throughout as our team grew up to its potential.”

Although the women failed to advance to the final, the team relished what was an amazing season. Their 3rd place finish in the competitive MIAC shattered the team’s pre-season goals while establishing the program as a premier contender in the conference. Moreover, several of the women are projected to earn all-conference honors, a post-season recognition that has not been awarded to any Macalester woman in years.

All season long, the team has had significant contributions from sophomores Horner, Lee, and Amanda Wenzel ’10 at positions 1, 2 and 3. Juniors Becky Nieber ’09 and Becky Schneider ’09 also added to the line-up contributing in the doubles teams.

Although the women’s team will suffer from the loss of Peschel and Harris, the gifted squad of underclasswomen should have little trouble filling the leadership gap. Muhl expressed heightened expectations next year as he intends to schedule the women’s team a tougher pre-season. Not only will the team be able to prepare for conference play in more competitive matches, but also with success, a national ranking could follow.

The men displayed steady progress with the help of confident leaders Brad Goldstein ’08 and Aaron Heerboth ’08. The men remain in a position for further improvement in what is an extremely competitive conference. Muhl conveyed confidence towards future contributions from freshman Michael Coleman ’11 Paul Mairet ’11 Justin Margolies ’11, all of whom had an initial impact on the team this season.

Heerboth ended his collegiate career with the men’s most victorious record, going 11-6 overall.

Rising senior Charlie Edelman ’09 and teammate Titus Levy ’10, who played well in doubles competition throughout the season, will need to take on leadership roles.

Increased confidence on the shoulders of young, talented and energetic teams can go a long way. Encouraged by the inspiring achievements from this season, Macalester tennis now has a great opportunity to establish the program with a consistent and competitive presence in the MIAC.