The Gustavian Weekly

Gusties earn 31st consecutive MIAC title: Men’s tennis goes undefeated in conference play | The Gustavian Weekly

By Joe Brandel - Sports & Fitness Editor | May 3, 2019 | Sports & Fitness

First-year Indraneel Raut returns a ball during a match at the fall ITA regionals.

First-year Indraneel Raut returns a ball during a match at the fall ITA regionals.

This past weekend, the Gustavus men’s tennis team competed in its final regular season conference matches against Macalester, Carleton, and St. Thomas.

The Gusties claimed victories against all three opponents, closing out the season with a perfect 9-0 conference record and captured their 31st consecutive MIAC Championship.

This MIAC title is the 48th championship in program history.

St. Olaf is the next closest team in the MIAC title race, earning ten of their own.

This MIAC dominance was on full display last weekend leading into postseason matches.

The team faced off against Macalester College April 26 and blanked the home side 9-0.

Head Coach Tommy Valentini was impressed with the team’s ability to start off so strongly and remain consistent throughout the day.

“It was great to get out and compete today,” Valentini said. “The guys were solid in the doubles. We got a great start from [Junior Michael] O’Neil and [Sophomore Xavier] Sanga at three. Once we had the lead and some momentum we did well to stay present and focused at all spots in the singles.”

The following day the Gusties faced their biggest test of the conference season.

Like the Gusties, Carleton is another nationally-ranked side, sitting at No. 38 in the nation in the most recent rankings.

The Knights were also heading into the match with an undefeated record, and this match proved to be the deciding factor of what MIAC powerhouse would take home the title of champion.

The score was 2-1 after doubles in the Gusties favor. The top team of Seniors Chase Johnson and Patrick Whaling edged out their opponents by a score of 8-6 in a back and forth match.

First-year Nick Aney went 6-0 last weekend in combined singles and doubles matches.

First-year Nick Aney went 6-0 last weekend in combined singles and doubles matches.

The second team of Junior Yassine Derbani and First-year Nick Aney took care of business in their match, winning 8-3.

Carleton came back in the final game against O’Neil and Sanga by a score of 8-7 to grab a point of their own.

In singles the top court was a battle between two nationally ranked individual players: No. 23 ranked Whaling against Carleton’s No. 15 ranked Leo Vithoontien.

After a long match Vithoontien won out garnering Carleton’s second point of the day.

This second point was all the Gusties would allow, however, winning the remaining five singles matches and claiming a 7-2 victory over the Knights.

“Carleton is a very strong team and they played very tough today,” Valentini said. “We had great support from fans and alumni out today. It was great to compete in front of them. We are grateful the result matched how well our group competed today. We’ll look to build on it heading into tomorrow.”

The following day, the Gusties secured yet another undefeated conference season after defeating St. Thomas with a commanding 9-0 all-around performance.

Subbing in at the top singles spot for the Gusties was Johnson, who proved to be more than ready for it, sweeping St. Thomas’ top singles player 6-0, 6-0.

Johnson went for a perfect 6-0 in singles and doubles competitions last weekend, and was recognized for his strong performances earning the title of MIAC Athlete of the Week.

Following the last regular game of the season Valentini and the team have their sights set on postseason play and are hoping to make a strong end of the season push to Nationals.

“It was a strong team effort from the team. We’re grateful to finish off the conference season with a good effort today, and we look forward to continuing to improve heading into the exciting post season ahead,” Valentini said.

The team competed in the MIAC semifinals against Bethel University during the time of publication, and if this game was won, they will be competing for the title of playoff champions at 1 p.m. May 4 at the Swanson Tennis Center.

They will face off against the winner of No. 3 seeded St. John’s and No. 2 seeded Carleton if they advance through the semifinals.