After a rough trip out west, the Gusties look to the playoffs with a big head of steam behind them
Another long and successful season for Gustavus Men’s Tennis is nearing its end as the Gusties prepare for their final regular season matches this weekend. The team will head north to face St. Thomas and Macalester this Saturday in what will be a final tune-up before the playoffs. This should also allow the top players a weekend to rest and prepare for the MIAC championships the following week. The Gusties hold an impressive record of 21-8 after decisive wins over Kalamazoo (MI) and Wartburg (IA) this last weekend.
2009 provided ups and downs for the squad, including the lengthy absence of Senior Kevin Stickney, who injured his shoulder.
“The cause of the injury was overuse,” said Stickney. “That, and the bear fight I got in a few months ago.”
The injury forced Coach Wilkinson to shake up the lineup, which certainly did not help during a rough stretch of games. The Gusties dropped consecutive matches to Williams College (MA), the University of Redlands (CA) and UC-Santa Cruz over Spring Break in California, marking a low point in the season. The temporary loss of Senior ace John Kauss during two of those matches also hurt the team’s success.
“Our expectations are always high,” said Senior Mike Burdakin in response to these losses. “We just need to keep working harder and harder in order to live up to our potential.”
With the return of Stickney, the Gusties seem poised for post-season success. A win in the MIAC tourney will guarantee them a spot in the Regional Championships. The Gusties hope to host the tournament,.
“It would be huge to host this event,” said Stickney. “The fans always help us to perform our best.”
For Stickney and his fellow seniors, the end of the season also signifies the end of a collegiate career at Gustavus.
“We are all just taking this one day at a time,” said Burdakin. “I don’t think it’s dawned on any of us that in a few weeks it’ll all be over. It’s been a pleasure playing with these guys for four years. I’ve made friends for life.”
Camaraderie is a major factor in the success of this team, and it will play a big part in the finale of what is Coach Wilkinson’s final year as coach. He announced to the school that he is retiring after this, his 39th year at Gustavus. He is the coach with the most wins in men’s college tennis history, with an overall record of 923-278 (.768).