Kieran Ripken – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Men’s Tennis team traveled to Southern California last week over Spring Break, squaring off against a total of seven opponents. According to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, three of the Gusties’ opponents were ranked in NCAA Division III: No. 3 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, No. 13 CalTech, and No. 24 Pomona Pitzer. The Gusties left California with three wins highlighted by a 6-3 victory over CalTech.
Gustavus was ranked No. 10 in NCAA Division III heading into the week, according to the ITA. Despite the achievement, the ranking did not affect the team’s approach and only builds on their confidence heading into matches.
“Everyone goes in with more confidence,” said Senior Alex Budde. “I think it helps us feel a little bit better about ourselves and that helps you play a little bit better too.”
The trip was initially delayed due to a handful of weather and travel challenges, but the team took the unfortunate circumstances in stride.
“Our team this year has done a really good job embracing difficult situations and we knew that we were going to have a lot of tough tennis throughout the week, but we went into it with a we-can-handle-anything mentality,” said Senior Nick Aney.
After the Gusties were able to arrive in California, the team began their schedule with a dominant 6-1 victory over NAIA opponent University of St. Katherine. The men put on a clinic in doubles, winning all three matches, and won five of six singles matches, highlighted by a three-set victory from Sophomore Taona Mhwandagara in the No. 1 spot. Against their second opponent of the day, the Gusties fell 6-1 to Westmont. Senior Luke Haddorff emerged with the team’s only singles win with a come-from-behind thriller in the third set. In doubles, Senior Jack Bergmeyer and Sophomore Rafael Costa secured a victory at the No. 2 spot but ultimately, the team lost the doubles point.
On day two, the Gusties faced Pomona-Pitzer and lost 6-2. Aney picked up wins in both the No. 1 singles spot, with set scores of 6-3 and 6-2, and the No. 1 doubles spot with Senior Daniel Fouchier, with a winning score of 8-5. Budde picked up a win in the No. 6 singles spot with two 7-6 set victories.
On day three, the Gusties rebounded with a 5-2 victory over NAIA opponent Hope International, highlighted by four singles victories by Senior Drew Elofson and First-years Luke Fridinger, Tyler Haddorff, and Ali Derbani.
The Gusties rose to the occasion later that day against CalTech, sweeping the doubles matches and winning three of six singles matches to secure an impressive 6-3 win. Budde and Sophomores Marco Siviero and Josh Christensen delivered three singles victories.
“Last year, we lost [to CalTech] after having a tough match and a close loss, so we were really fired up and ready to get going when we got there and we knew this was going to be an important match for us for this season,” said Fouchier.
To close their trip in California, the Gusties traveled to Claremont for a rare doubleheader against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“It was new for a lot of us because we haven’t done that before and it is something you don’t really ever do,” said Budde.
Despite the rarity, the Gusties persevered and posted two quality matches against CMS. In the first match, the Gusties took two of three doubles matches with wins from Aney and Fouchier at No. 1 and Senior Sourabh Terakanambi and Siviero at No. 3, but fell as a team in a close 4-3 final score. In the second match, Budde led the team to its only two points with wins at No. 5 singles and No. 1 doubles with First-year partner Gage Gohl. The Gusties fell 7-2. With Budde’s exemplary performances over the course of the week, it was announced on Monday that he secured his second MIAC Athlete of the Week honor for the season.
Now home from their trip, the team has their sights set on lofty goals for the remainder of the season.
“Our expectations for the rest of the season are pretty high. We know we can compete with the best teams in the nation, so we’re really excited for all these upcoming weeks especially because we have a lot of seniors on the team,” said Fouchier.
The Gusties are traveling to face two teams next weekend on Saturday, the first in St. Paul against conference opponent Bethel and the second against No. 38 UW-Whitewater in Wisconsin. The team is 6-0 on the season against conference opponents.