Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Men’s Tennis Upsets DePauw 5–3 in NCAC Playoffs

Last Friday, the men’s tennis team beat DePauw University in the NCAC Quarterfinals 5–3. Their win marked the first time in 20 years that a no. 6 seed has beaten a no. 3 seed in the NCAC Tournament, and additionally, Oberlin has not defeated DePauw in tennis in the last five years. However, these odds did not faze the Yeomen going into this matchup, and the self-belief the team had was key. Oberlin lost to DePauw earlier in the year 5–4, and knowing they were points away from a win instilled them with the confidence they needed to produce the result they desired this time around. 

Before their big match against the Tigers, third-year Sebastien Naginski and fourth-year Rohan Gold got into their headspace by doing yoga, as capturing some of these wins right off the bat required a level of focus from the team that had to be maintained before the match even began.

“I try to treat every match the same, but I — along with the rest of the team — was obviously a little more amped up given the stakes,” Naginski wrote in an email to the Review. “I think the entire team did a great job going into the match with intensity while also staying mentally calm and focused.”

The duo of Naginski and second-year Shawn Lisann started off the match with a major win in the no. 1 doubles matchup, with a score of 8–3. This was a significant win, both as an early confidence boost and redemption from losing to the same team in a tiebreak earlier in the year. This win was followed by an 8–6 win in the no. 2 doubles matchup due to some stellar teamwork from Gold and first-year Zain Makada. In the no. 3 doubles tie, the Yeomen were not able to capitalize despite valiant efforts, finishing with a score of 4–8. 

“My doubles partner Shawn Lisann and I were especially motivated to win our doubles, since we had lost to that same team in a tiebreak in the last matchup,” Naginski wrote.

Players mentioned that moral support and splitting their main objective up into individual goals was a huge help in their accomplishments. Especially with the talent they were facing, employing these strategies were necessary as they navigated through these games. 

“A couple shared goals we had were to win at least two doubles matches so we could start singles with a lead, and to make sure we continually supported each other and stayed loud,” Naginski wrote. “The biggest hurdle was steeling ourselves mentally to deal with momentum swings, which are always expected in close matches like these and especially against a persistent and resilient team like Depauw’s.” 

Coming into singles play with a lead, Gold kept the momentum rolling in the no. 1 matchup and came out victorious with a score of 6–1, 3–6, 6–1. 

“For me, I wanted to extend the length of my tennis career as long as possible before the inevitable ride home, so I gave it all I had, and posted a really good win against one of the top players in our conference,” Gold wrote in an email to the Review. “I think the rest of the guys knew that opportunities like this one are slim, so they all dialed in and performed at a level that was commensurate with the intense level of training we’ve all been dedicated to.” 

Next, Lisann was battling through a tough no. 2 matchup and held the lead in the third set but did not have the opportunity to finish the match. Naginski played a resilient three sets and pulled through with a 7–5, 3–6, 6–2 victory. Makada dominated his no. 4 matchup with a 6–1, 6–2 win. First-year Ben Tichauer’s no. 5 matchup ended with a score of 3–6, 2–6. Second-year James Foster got some games up on the board but ultimately could not capitalize with a final score of 4–6, 3–6. Although it wasn’t perfect, the combination of efforts allowed the Yeomen to pull off the improbable upset. They were extremely pleased with their win and their chance to advance further in the conference tournament. 

“Securing this win meant a lot to me… coming in as underdogs and channeling that motivation into beating DePauw was a great feeling,” Naginski wrote.  “I think our win was a testament to how far we had come from the beginning of the season, not only as tennis players but as teammates who trusted each other.” 

While the Yeomen were exuberant about the win, it was not a huge surprise to them, but rather a testament to the work that had been put in. This win was especially meaningful for Gold, as he has now played his last game as a Yeoman after four years with the program.

“It was time for us to take a leap of faith and secure a victory like this…I sincerely hope our team can see this victory as a stepping stone and continue to build the program after I leave,” Gold said.

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