Alli Joerger – Staff Writer
After a long weekend of difficult competition, environmental inhibitions, and grit, the Gustavus Men’s Tennis team emerged from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Region Championship Tournament with several impressive performances and new goals. The Gusties hosted this tournament, which gives athletes the opportunity to qualify for the ITA Cup in several locations around St. Peter between Oct. 1st and Oct. 4th.
Though the Gusties did not qualify any athletes for the ITA Cup, the team boasted multiple victories outside of qualifications. In the ITA singles area, nineteen Gustavus athletes were entered and all nineteen advanced past the first round. Six of those nineteen advanced to quarterfinals, with Seniors Drew Elofson and Indraneel Raut both competing in semifinal rounds. In the ITA doubles area the Gusties advanced seven out of eight competing pairs, with pairs Senior Nick Aney /Junior Alex Budde and Junior Daniel Fouchier /Junior Sourabh Terakanambi both competing in semifinal rounds. In addition, doubles pair Junior Justin Sehlin and Sophomore Geoffrey Youngs “played beautifully” to win the title for Midwest Open doubles, Head Coach Tommy Valentini said.
This weekend’s tournament has given the community a glimpse into not only the talent and grit of Gustavus Men’s Tennis, but also the culture of the team and what it means to represent the organization. Elofson explained that while the tournament is “more of an individual tournament,” you couldn’t guess that from the support within the team. Elofson described the team effort that went into each match as teammates no longer competing stood on sidelines and cheered on the athletes still competing in the tournament. Despite the individuality within the sport, the Gustavus team exemplifies a team-wide “leave it all on the court” mentality facilitated by upperclassmen leadership which is a true indication of the dedication these athletes have to their sport and each other.
Camaraderie and leading by example have been critical for the upperclassmen leaders on the team. The challenges of the 2020-2021 season, owing to the ongoing pandemic combined with the international diversity on the team has made it extremely important for seniors like Elofson to make the tradition of excellence in Gustavus Men’s Tennis well known.
“It was important to us as upperclassmen to show them [underclassmen]… how to compete at this tournament and how to bring energy and how to lift up your teammates and bring them up when they’re out there too,” Elofson said. Reflecting on this being his final ITA Region Tournament, Elofson reiterated the importance of enjoying each moment and making the most out of opportunities given to be on the court.
Looking ahead, the Gustavus Men’s Tennis team is beginning their offseason where they will prepare for the excitement of the spring season. This weekend’s tournament has offered positive feedback for the team and provides a strong foundation for upcoming events. Athletes and coaches agree that the competition faced was difficult, and yet the Gusties persevered and succeeded in many different areas of the tournament. Not only did the team demonstrate their athleticism and talent but the athletes showed their mental toughness and perseverance in the face of a long weekend and strong opponents. The team’s performances this weekend are indicative of a growth mentality and plenty of potential for the future.
The Gusties plan on using this weekend as an opportunity for growth, both physically and mentally. “We will take a lot of positives out of the weekend, and grow as players and as a team from everything that took place. I’m sure our guys will get to work in the in-between season – as we have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead of us in the spring,” Coach Valentini said. The off-season presents a chance for the team to recover from the fall season as well as strengthen themselves in preparation for the spring season.
Mentally, the team hopes to continue their culture of excellence and the inter-team support that is expected in that culture. With the individual basis of tennis, it can be difficult to maintain the level of togetherness that other more cooperative sports may have. However, leaders on the team believe that such a mindset of support will be key to the team’s ongoing success.
“Those are the teams that will probably end up doing the best are the ones that treat it like a team event,” Elofson said. As this team uses their experiences from the 2021 ITA Midwest Region Championship Tournament, it is sure to experience the growth and team-building necessary to be among the best.