Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
After an amazing sixth-place finish at the ITA Men’s Indoor Championships last weekend, the Gustavus men’s tennis team carried that momentum with them as they faced Hamline University and Luther College on Saturday, March 4. The Gusties swept the Hamline Pipers 9-0 and defeated the Luther Norse 8-1. These victories put the Gusties 10-4 overall and 4-0 in the MIAC. “We started off with Hamline and we took care of business pretty fast. I think after a super competitive and tough weekend everyone was ready to take care of business in the Conference,” Senior Alex Budde said.
First-year Luke Haddorff was undefeated as he went 8-0 in doubles with partner Senior Justin Sehlin, as well as beating his Hamline opponent in the No. 6 singles spot with two 6-0 scores. Sophomore Taona Mhwandagara also had a clean sweep in the No. 4 singles spot with a set of 6-0 scores. After these wins, the Gusties felt confident as they shifted to face the Luther Norse.
“We have had some decent matches against Luther in the past. On Saturday, in the doubles we lost one match, we played a good team which came down to a tiebreaker. But the two and three doubles spots we won pretty easily, so we got a lead,” Senior Sourabh Terakanambi said. Terakanambi and his partner First-year Marco Siviero, won in the No. 3 spot 8-3 with Budde and First-year Gage Gohl winning in the No. 2 spot 8-2. “We tried to look at it like any other match, so we tried to go into it pretty intense and bring high energy,” Budde said. He also won in the singles as he defeated Luther’s Marvin Kuehnelt 6-0 and 6-3.
“We were really focusing on the present because we have a big weekend this week as we are heading to California for a big invitational. So I think a lot of people were just making sure we weren’t looking ahead and actually just focusing on the match we had,” Terakanambi said. After coming off such a promising weekend, facing nationally ranked teams on Feb. 26, the Gusties gained immense confidence as they head into the outdoor season. Budde and Terakanambi faced top-tier teams at the ITA Championship with Budde being the only singles player to pull out a win and Terakanambi and his partner defeating their opponent 8-2.
The team is heading to California this week where they will have enough sunshine to compete outdoors. “I think we are more successful this year, I think we are on an up trend. I think it’s because, for once, we have been pretty open about what we want to do as a team rather than just expect everyone to just bring it themselves. I think one of the biggest things is bringing a lot of energy to practices kinda going from what we said earlier about going from a week where we are playing a top-ranked national team to playing a much lower-ranked team, that practices could typically in our years prior, maybe weren’t as great if we are not playing as good of competition but I think we have found a way to streamline our energy,” Terakanambi said.
This buy-in from the whole team has created so much success for the Gusties not only in the MIAC but also on the national scale. “I think last weekend showed that we could beat the best teams so then I think that adds confidence to all of your matches you play throughout the year and I think everyone seems to be playing better, too, after seeing we can beat pretty much anybody,” Budde said. The ITA Championship event was a very meaningful and special experience for DIII tennis and an even cooler experience that Gustavus was able to host.
As the season shifts towards outdoor, the seniors have much to look forward to as they end their tennis careers. The team is looking to exceed expectations and advance far in the national tournament. The bonds and friendships that are made on and off the court have played a vital role in the success of the team. The cohesiveness of the players has also contributed to their success not only within the MIAC but also against teams such as the University of Chicago, NC Wesleyan, and Emory, who are all top 10 nationally ranked.
The Gusties are looking forward to an exciting week in California as they head to the Stag-Hen Invitational hosted by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. They will also host Iowa Central on Friday and send some players to Fargo, North Dakota to compete against Concordia on Saturday.