Living at college can cause feelings of homesickness, but for one Gustavus sports team, family time is primarily held on the tennis courts at practice each day with one another. Joey MacGibbon, senior men’s tennis player, feels right at home when he’s with his teammates.
“I consider multiple guys on the team my very best friends here on campus. You’ll never see a Gustie tennis player without another Gustie tennis player. We tend to travel in packs,” MacGibbon said.
Senior Patrick Dolan said that he is impressed with the team’s chemistry. “We stick together through the tough times and do our best to stay positive even when that is not the easiest choice,” Dolan said.
Men’s Tennis Coach Tommy Valentini said he is looking forward to watching how his team will come together, and who will step up into new leadership roles.
“We’re looking forward to all the challenges the season will bring that can help us live out our values on and off of the courts. I’m also looking forward to spending each day with this group. They are great young men who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for each other. This makes it a joy to be together every day,” Valentini said.
While it may be early in the season, the steamy weather has only motivated the team to push themselves harder than ever before.
“It was great having the hot weather for the first week and it was nice to get some sun while on the courts. Practicing in warm weather conditions really helps get us into better shape and helps prepares us for any other weather condition that we may face throughout the season,” MacGibbon said.
The team’s fall season is only one month long, so the team is focusing on getting as many quality practices in as possible. Currently, the team is ranked first (9-0) in their conference. With high hopes of continuing their wins on the court, the team has crafted their own Gustavus motto, “making every shot count.”
“Making each practice and each shot count allows us to take full advantage of the short time we have to prepare for games and be focused on getting better each and every day we step on the court,” Dolan said.
Just like any family, there are certain expectations that need to be met. Coach Valentini said that the fall season is mostly about creating a bond with his team and setting the tone for how they will continue to be a family throughout the year.
“We want to make sure everyone is on board with our values and our philosophy, and that we are all committed to giving our best effort, choosing to be positive, and showing great sportsmanship every day. Certainly, we set out to win as many matches as we can in our fall tournaments, but we’re really focusing on what’s within our control each day,” said Valentini.
According to Dolan, even off of the court, accountability for fellow teammates, coaches, and alumni is important.
“One thing I learned very quickly after joining this program is that your actions don’t just represent yourself, they represent the whole program, so we try to do our best to keep that in mind daily,” Dolan said.
Last year, the men’s tennis team made it into the semi-finals at Nationals. MacGibbon believes that this year they have the potential to go even further.
This month, the team will compete in the Drake Invitational on Sept. 21, and the Fall ITA/Midwest tournament Sept. 28. Later this year, the team will travel out east to play Middlebury and Amherst during Spring Break, as well as travel to California in March to battle some Big Ten teams.
Valentini said the new members of the team are adjusting well, and he said the returning players are practicing well and improving every day. He is looking forward to watching how the leaders of the team help the new members.
“I’m really looking forward to spending my senior year with great friends and to see the amazing potential we have as team and as a family,” MacGibbon said.
“Personally, the thing I am most excited about for this season is just the opportunity to enjoy one last season. The time went by very quickly and I’m going to try my best to cherish my final year in the program,” Dolan said.
As the season progresses, the men’s tennis team will continue to strengthen their familial bond both on and off the tennis courts.