Yeomen Serve Up Win in Spring Opener
The men’s tennis squad opened its spring season this past Saturday with a hard-fought 6–3 win over the visiting Indiana Tech Warriors.
The Yeomen initially struggled to adjust to the Warriors’ powerful groundstrokes, as they dropped games early in all three doubles matches. The Warriors, who play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, featured an array of talented international players.
The first- and second-flight doubles teams did not let their opponents’ talent distract them. Senior Callan Louis and junior Abraham Davis were initially at a deadlock with Indiana Tech’s junior pair of Fernando Fernandez and Mikel Oscoz with 4–4, but the Oberlin duo eventually edged out an 8–5 victory.
Davis said that the pair, having played together for much of the 2013–2014 season, have developed a bond that allows them to deal with high-pressure situations.
“By the time it got to 4–4, Cal and I felt like we were going to pull it out,” Davis said. “We have had a lot of close matches together, and we have come out on top most of the time.”
The first-flight doubles pairing of junior captain Ian Paik and junior Jeremy Lichtmacher won a nail-biter of a game in a 9–8 tiebreaker on court one against sophomore Nicholas Aguirre and senior Joaquin Ferrando.
Finishing doubles play with a 2–1 lead, the Yeomen claimed the first singles victory of the day; Louis took the first singles point at the third-flight when his opponent retired due to injury.
Sophomore Michael Drougas then contributed a second-flight singles win. Drougas won a commanding first set 6–1 and continued to an early 5–2 lead in the second set, eventually defeating junior Fernando Sousa 6–4.
Paik was the next Yeoman off the court, trading impressive hard strokes with Indiana Tech’s talented big hitter Ferrando. However, his efforts fell short, as he ultimately lost 7–5, 7–5 in first-flight singles.
Davis then delivered another important win for the Yeomen. His 6–4, 6–2 victory at fourth-flight singles clenched the match, putting the Yeomen up 5–1.
The number three doubles pairing of junior Billy Lennon and senior Brandon McKenna were the lone duo to be defeated that afternoon. Lennon and McKenna started the match down 7–1 to Indiana Tech’s senior Rui Lima and junior Kino de Leon, but they fought back to win four more games before ultimately being defeated 8–3.
The Yeomen look poised to improve upon their 2014–2015 season, one of the best in recent memory, when Oberlin finished fourth in the conference, achieved a regional ranking of 12 and finished the season with a 12–11 record.
Other accomplishments from that season include Head Coach Eric Ishida winning the North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year award.
McKenna said that Ishida’s presence has not only improved the team’s record and standings, but also its chemistry.
“Simply put, Eric is the man,” he said. “He’s taken a program that was 0–22 a couple of years before his arrival to one that is competing for a national ranking. [Ishida’s recruiting] has really resulted in a genuinely cohesive team dynamic — we hang out a lot, and are all pretty close off court, but still are always competing with one another.”
With an experienced group of upperclassmen leading the charge, supplemented by an impressive sophomore class, Ishida is confident that great things are in store for the program.
“With seven juniors and seniors, we finally have an older team, so this is not considered a ‘building year,’” Ishida said. “I ask the leaders of the team to walk the walk and lead by example. We have young players that are doing things the right way already, but for the program to jump to the next level, our older players will need to set the bar higher, and the rest will follow.”
A tough test comes early for the Yeomen as they travel to Crawfordsville, IN, to take on their rivals the Wabash College Little Giants on Saturday. The Yeomen fell to the Little Giants by a score of 5–4 during last year’s regular season but bounced back in the conference tournament with a 5–3 win, as NCAC Tournament matches are played to decision.
“Wabash is always a tough match,” Ishida said. “We play at their home courts and they are coming off of a tough loss, so I expect we will see their best, and we will be ready.”