Although the Gustavus men’s tennis team was off to a shaky start, the men have continued to improve their technique and are currently sitting on a four meet winning streak. The recent meets against Grinnell College, Macalester College, Hamline University, and UW-Whitewater have boosted the team’s morale and set the stage for a successful spring season.
“This year the team has been gifted with a lot of depth at all positions. This allows us to make different sorts of lineups no matter who we play,” Sophomore Sam Hjelm said.
With this flexibility comes the ability to win against a wide variety of opponents, which has been the case throughout the season. While the team as a whole is known to be very strong, this year’s seniors are expected to raise their game to an entirely new level.
“We have really strong leadership from our upperclassmen and our large talented team size allows us to push one another in order to improve every day,” Sophomore Nick Reiners said.
In addition to the admirable leadership within the team is a sense of pride in sportsmanship and the sport itself.
“We always try to exemplify the ‘three crowns.’ These are: full effort, postive attitude, and sportsmanship. You can’t always determine how you will play, or how your opponent will play or act. But the three crowns are things that are always in our control,” Reiners said.
This ‘three crowns’ motto is prevalent on the team and keeps the players motivated to continue improving through the long season.
“We’re constantly working to improve tactically, physically, and mentally by focusing on giving full effort, choosing to be positive, and competing with the highest standard of sportsmanship,” Coach Tommy Valentini said.
While most of the team’s practices and meets take place in the Swanson Tennis Center or at other colleges, the men got a taste of playing outdoors when they travelled to Texas over Touring Week this past January.
“It was great to be outdoors and playing in different conditions than ‘The Bubble’ against some really good teams. It made us realize that we belong at the top level if we put in the hard work on the practice court,” Reiners said.
With losses against University of the Incarnate Word, Trinity University, University of Texas-Tyler, and a win against Texas Lutheran University, the team realized that they had faced some tough competition, but gained valuable playing time.
“We were able to spend a lot of time together as a team, and we had our entire roster involved in excellent competition,” Coach Valentini said.
With many successful meets and memories behind them the men are setting sights on their spring break trip and important meets ahead.
“The teams that we play in California are all top tier teams for Division III tennis. Playing matches at that level is something that everyone loves. Our California trip is a really pivotal point in the season because it is one of our last big chances to improve before the MIAC Playoffs in May,” Hjelm said.
Coach Valentini is equally excited for the spring break trip.
“It’s a great opportunity to grow as a family, and to play against some of the best competition in the nation,” he said.
Although this year’s season is only halfway over, many of the underclassmen on the team as well as the coach are looking forward to next year.
“[My goal is] to help this group continue come together as a community to pursue our full potential on and off the court,” Coach Valentini said.