Oberlin is on the cusp of becoming a significant force in men’s tennis in the North Coast Athletic Conference; the team must simply find a way to close out matches.
This past Saturday, March 12, the team lost hard-fought matches against Grove City College and Ohio Wesleyan University, both by scores of 7–2.
The team started off on fire against Grove City in the morning. After first-year Charlie Marks and junior Joe Leffler narrowly lost the opening doubles slot in a fierce final set tiebreaker, the Yeomen came back to win the remaining two doubles matches behind 8-5 results from junior Eliot Heaton and first-year Logan Chun in the second slot and junior Sam Towne and sophomore William Broderick in the third slot.
If first slot doubles had been able to pull out the win in their heated match, which was back and forth all the way to the tiebreaker, Oberlin would have swept the doubles matches.
“The first match against Grove City was a really tough loss; we’re probably better as a doubles team, so getting three wins there would have been huge,” Heaton said.
That first loss would unfortunately be a microcosm of Oberlin’s play for the rest of the day as contentious matches abounded, with more ending in Grove City’s favor. Going into singles play with a head of steam after two straight doubles wins, Oberlin fought valiantly but was ultimately unable to eke out any wins.
After falling behind in the first set, first-year phenom Chun forced a tiebreaker in the third and final set of the top-seeded singles match before being beaten by a hair, 6–4, 1–6, 7–6 (7–4).
The rest of the singles matches against Grove City were similarly heartbreaking losses, highlighted by third singles. Towne got off to a great start in taking the first set 7–6 (7–2), but hit a wall and dropped the last two sets 6–2 and 6–1.
The afternoon match against Ohio Wesleyan closely mirrored the morning’s competition with Grove City, as Oberlin again secured its only two wins in doubles play. Marks and senior Leo Sprinzen won the first doubles slot 8–6 for Oberlin. Heaton and Chun secured the second win in the third slot doubles match with an 8–4 victory.
Oberlin was once again unable to convert the momentum of its doubles victories into success in their singles matches. “It seemed like we had a lot of tough matches as a team that we weren’t able to close out, so we ended up with some close losses,” Heaton said.
The Yeomen, though, are clearly on the rise with young talent developing and three wins already on their résumé this season — compared to four in total last season.
“The key is to figure out how to close out tough matches. In the past matches weren’t even close, but now we just need to learn how to turn close losses into wins,” Heaton remarked.
If the Yeomen can put together some wins to close out the season, they will be legitimate contenders in the conference tournament. Their first chance to set the tone for the rest of the season comes this Saturday at home against John Carroll University at 2 p.m. in Philips Gymnasium.