Men’s and Women’s Tennis off to promising starts
By Peter Melling /// Sports Editor
The men’s and women’s tennis teams are entering high gear in their seasons, and they are firing with all pistons. As of March 9, the men’s squad is 4-3 and the women’s squad is 7-2. How have both teams managed to get off to such hot starts, and how are they preparing for the rest of the season?
While both teams lost their first games, the men’s team has since gone 4-2, while the women’s team has rattled off a 7-1 stretch. In these stretches, the women have a seven-game winning streak and the men managed a four-game winning streak.
When asked about how the season has started out so well, Head Coach Patrick Dreves said, “Although we’re off to a strong start, we’ve definitely set really high standards and goals for these teams this year. The competition moving forward is only going to get stronger and so we’re sticking to our game plan. Stay humble, work hard, and compete to be the best.”
He added, “Our men’s and women’s programs are still growing and both share some very distinct qualities that have made them strong– but at the same time, they’re very different. My committed coaching staff and our awesome trainer (Coach Ange) has really worked hard to lay the foundations for a program that has high expectations.”
It seems that these high expectations are already being met. In their 9-0 victory over the George Fox University Bruins, the women’s squad won all of their singles and doubles sets. This is the fourth time that the women’s team has swept a match, doing so previously against Willamette University, Pacific Lutheran University, and the University of Puget Sound. Performances like these have started to garner national recognition for the team, as they are currently #36 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings.
Even in the midst of their successes, maturation is still ongoing. As Coach Dreves said, “Although we’ve seen some good improvement across the board, I would have to say that our returners are really leading the charge and coming into their own right now. On the men’s side, Michael Brewer (’17) is playing really well right now even though he’s been battling a flu-bug all semester. Claudia Lew (’16) has really stepped up her game on the women’s side after a disappointing Fall ITA showing.”
In the aforementioned match on Sunday, Lew and Summer Garrison (’18) masterfully handled their opponents and has a resulting score of 8-1. Garrison has also emerged as one of the top first-years on the team, as she has not lost a match since February 14, has won the Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week Award for her performances in the last week of February, and has earned the #1 singles spot on the team.
When asked about the development of the first-year tennis players, Coach Dreves remarked, “As with most freshman across the country, ours are experiencing some growing pains. The demands of college tennis, the rigors of being at a highly academic school and the newly found freedoms of being away from home are all things that our young students are getting used to dealing with. It’s a work in progress, but we’re definitely learning.”
Because of the amount of first- and second-year students on both teams, this year provides an opportunity to mature the team even more. Coach Dreves said, “We’ve got a great mix of some really talented and hard working men and women. We brought in a great freshman class who are blending in well with upperclassmen leadership, and that has lead to some positive outcomes.”
He added, “We’ve really grown as a program since I took over a few years ago. The hours they’ve put in on the courts and the weight room are starting to show in the wins column. We’re starting to get some national recognition now and that will only propel this group to grow even closer and strive for more.”
Of course, each team’s seasons are bound to increase in intensity. The Pios will next face Linfield University on March 13, whose women’s team holds onto first place in the NWC. After matches against Willamette University, the team will take off on their annual California road trip, facing UC Santa Cruz, Cal Lutheran University, and Occidental College.
The Pioneers look to fulfill their potential and continue the development of their young players into an elite unit.