Tennis Teams In Search of Consistency Following Tough Losses

James Blankenship and Ariel Lewis

Last week was a rough one for Oberlin’s tennis squads, who dropped a combined three matches in the season’s early going. The Yeomen suffered consecutive defeats in their doubleheader last Saturday, losing 8–1 and 9–0 at the hands of Hope College and Elmhurst College, respectively. Just two days prior, the women’s team fell 5–4 to Division II foe Ashland University in an evening match that lasted well over six hours.

The losses on the men’s side followed a two-match winning streak, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider the team’s recent history. Oberlin’s record at the end of the 2010 season was 4–22, a vast improvement from the prior season in which their inexperience led to an 0–22 finish. This year, the Yeomen have already notched three wins and look poised to take the next step toward becoming a conference threat.

Despite the wide margins in score, the men’s dual losses are less troubling than they seem. Against Hope, Oberlin’s lone point came in the first singles position, where first-year standout Logan Chun posted a hard-fought victory with set scores of 6–7 (4–7), 6–2, 13–11. However, the team remained competitive in all areas of the lineup, with junior Joe Leffler succumbing in the third set of his singles bout and the second doubles pairing of Chun and junior Eliot Heaton losing in a tiebreaker.

Against Elmhurst, the score line was similar. Though Oberlin failed to capture any points, the trio of Leffler, Heaton, and junior Sam Towne were inches from victory in each of their respective matches.

The Yeowomen’s close loss to Ashland was equally heart wrenching. Solid doubles performances put the Yeowomen ahead 2–1 heading into singles play, and convincing victories in the top spots set the score at 4–1 in favor of the Yeowomen. However, despite gutsy performances in the fourth and fifth singles positions by sophomore Preeya Shah and junior Carolyn Ball — both of whom lost in three set matches — Oberlin wasn’t able to pull out the fifth point and claim victory.

The taste is all too familiar for the Yeowomen; of the six matches they have lost this season, four have been by a 5–4 margin. This includes losses to regionally ranked teams Luther University and Case Western Reserve University. Wins over those teams would have been perhaps the most significant in the program’s recent history. With the loss against Ashland — a team Oberlin sputtered against in past seasons — the Yeowomen have gained more early-season experience in close matches than they hoped for coming in.

“I really feel as though this is our year,” said Shah. “We’ve played some tough competitors so far this season, some top teams in the country, and suffered some painfully close losses. We’re so close to making a big breakthrough, and I’m excited to see what the remainder of the season has in store.”

The men return to action with a home doubleheader this Saturday, where they will look to get back on track against Grove City College and Ohio Wesleyan University. The women are traveling south this weekend to challenge Division I Dayton University, in what should be another valuable test of the team’s impressive young talent.