Jack Wiessenberger – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Women’s Tennis team has started off their season on a hot streak, as is typical for the program. At about a third of the way through their season, the team is holding onto a perfect record with six dominant wins and zero losses. Leadership from upperclassmen as well as the team’s coaching staff has contributed greatly to the recent success. The Gusties are overcoming challenges presented by COVID-19 and finding a way to shine.
“Our team has been doing really well this season, we are undefeated and started the season with a huge win against University of Whitewater which helped our confidence in the other matches. We’ve also done really well in close matches, typically if there is a tiebreaker our team does a good job of pulling through and winning the tight matches which is important,” Senior Ginger Valentine said.
The Gusties took down UW Whitewater on March 5 by a score of seven to two in an exciting first match of the season. Valentine won both her singles and doubles competitions in that match. Since the season-opener, the Gusties have continued their domination on the courts. In their second outing, the Gusties took down Luther College by a score of seven to two.
In the following three matches against Concordia-Moorhead, Morningside College, and Mankato State, the Gusties held their opponents scoreless. The team most recently faced off against Southwest Minnesota State in what was the closest competition of the season. After some back and forth play, the Gusties emerged victorious by a score of six to three. Coach Jon Carlson has continued his tradition of excellence by getting the team off to a hot start this season.
“Coach Carlson has done a lot in getting us ready for the season. Conditioning this year has been very rigorous and beneficial. The matches we’ve been having has helped him figure out what we need to work on during practices. At the start of the season we had a big emphasis on match play which is good to prepare us for the season. He also does extra hitting each week which gives everyone a chance to work on a specific shot or drill,” Valentine said.
Even in an atypical year, Coach Carlson and his team are putting in the work to ensure they perform their best on match days. COVID has presented many challenges outside the realm of a normal season, but that hasn’t stopped the Gusties from putting their best foot forward and continuing to shine on and off the court.
“I don’t believe our team culture has shifted due to COVID. Although it is a bummer not to be able to do our same team bonding activities, we have adjusted activities to follow the guidelines and even tried out some new activities. We have great leadership on our team with many upperclassmen and three amazing senior captains who have truly led the team through these challenging times. It has been so fun to show the freshmen what it means to be a Gustie tennis player on and off the court,” Junior Megan Karrow said.
Despite the circumstances forcing the team to change much of how it normally operates, the culture of hard work and dedication has endured. Leadership from the team’s upperclassmen has been key to the success seen early in the season. Each Gustie on the team is looking forward to continuing their undefeated season all the way through the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Championships.
“Our team still gives it our best at every practice. This is one of the hardest working teams I have been on and we all inspire each other. Our coaches also continue to push us to be the best athletes we can be. We are appreciative of each practice and match we get and don’t take any of them for granted because we don’t know what the future holds,” Karrow said.
Barring any extraordinary change in plans, the MIAC is set to hold conference championships for spring sports, including tennis. However, COVID has made it clear that plans can easily be altered. Despite the uncertainty, the entire team has their goals set high. Since Coach Jon Carlson took the reigns as head coach in 1990, the team has 24 first place finishes in the MIAC. This history of excellence is what drives the team to tackle any challenge, whether it be a rival school or the changes brought about by a pandemic. No matter the circumstances, Gusties will continue to shine.