The men’s and women’s tennis North Coast Athletic Conference Championships were held this past weekend at Oberlin College. Both the Yeomen and Yeowomen have reason to be proud of their achievements in the tournament, in addition to bright future prospects.
The Yeomen played three matches, posting a 1–2 record to finish in a respectable sixth place in the conference. After being blanked by Wabash College in the quarterfinals 5–0, Oberlin notched a close 5–4 win over the Ohio Wesleyan University Bishops in the consolation bracket. They ended the tournament with a 5–2 loss in the fifth place match against Wittenberg University Tigers.
The win against Ohio Wesleyan was especially sweet, as it gave the Yeomen some much-desired revenge.
“They came to our courts earlier in the season and acted really obnoxiously, challenging all of our calls and acting like they were these fantastic tennis players,” said junior Eliot Heaton. “We couldn’t really argue, though, because they beat us 8–1. This time we were ready for how they acted, and we just played our games and came out with the team win.”
And what a win it was, as the Yeomen overcame the bigheaded Bishops 5–4 in a comeback thriller. Oberlin started off strong, earning a 2–1 lead after winning the first and third doubles spots. Senior Leo Sprinzen and first-year Charlie Marks took the top-seeded doubles match 8–4, while the junior duo Joe Leffler and Sam Towne rounded out doubles play with a hard-fought 9–8 victory that came down to a tie-breaker (7–2) at third doubles. The Bishops barely avoided the doubles sweep by edging out Heaton and first-year Logan Chun in a back-and-forth affair in second doubles 8–6.
Despite going into doubles play with a lead, the Yeomen quickly had their backs against the wall as Ohio Wesleyan won some tightly contested two set matches at the first, fifth, and sixth singles spots to grab a 4–2 edge. At first singles, Chun put himself in an early hole by dropping the first set 6–0. He put forth a much stronger effort in the second, but it wasn’t enough as he fell 6–0, 6–4. After Leffler fell at fifth singles, Heaton tried to stop the bleeding in the sixth slot. After forcing a second set tiebreaker at 6–6, however, he fell in the breaker 7–5.
Suddenly finding themselves down two with only three matches left to play, the Yeomen knew they had to dig in and win all of their remaining matches. Towne instilled hope in the Oberlin faithful with his three-set win in the third spot. Marks played a great match in the second spot to also win in three sets. It was then up to the team’s lone senior, Sprinzen, to close out the comeback. He did so, but not without putting a scare into his teammates.
“[Sprinzen] was up on match point,” Heaton recalled. “The other guy hit a ball out, and we all started cheering when Leo called it. The referee, however, did not agree with the call and overruled it. She had already made some very iffy calls, so we were all pretty upset when she did it on the deciding point. Leo is an experienced player though, and he went on to beat the kid anyway.”
The Yeomen’s season, which Heaton describes as “by far the most successful one we have had in the three years I have been on the team,” was paralleled by the admirable performance of the Yeowomen in the NCAC Championships. The women opened play by also beating Ohio Wesleyan, this time by a 5–1 score.
The Yeowomen won two of the doubles spots behind strong efforts by the tandems of juniors Ariel Lewis, staff writer for the Review, and Carolyn Ball (8–6) in the second spot and sophomore Preeya Shah and junior Brie White-Dzuro (8–1) in the third slot.
While juniors Rebecca Brown and Finley Gates conceded the first-seed doubles match, the pair had game point opportunities in seven of their eight dropped games, demonstrating how close the match actually was. With a few more breaks, the Yeowomen could have easily swept doubles play.
In singles play, White-Dzuro jumpstarted the Yeowomen with a rapid 6–0, 6–1 win in the sixth spot. Co-captain Brown then won in straight sets as well, earning Oberlin a point in the fifth spot 6–3, 6–3. Gates then sealed the victory for Oberlin with a convincing 6–1, 3–6, 6–2 victory in the second spot, securing the clinching fifth point.
The momentum from the first match unfortunately was not enough to secure wins for the Yeowomen in their following two matches against Kenyon College and Allegheny College, as they lost 2–5 and 4–5 respectively. Oberlin was highly competitive in both games, however, and have nothing to be ashamed of as they overcame plenty of adversity simply to compete.
“We started the year with 11 players, but a combination of injuries and players quitting left us with only six players by year’s end,” Lewis said. Any fewer players and the Yeowomen wouldn’t have been able to field a team. “It was really tough. I have an injured foot, and I think everyone played through injuries,” Brown added. “It wasn’t only physically, but also emotionally draining.”
Despite the disappointment of losing contentious matches to two rivals, the ability of the Yeowomen to overcome so much adversity indicates the promise of next season. The Yeowomen will be returning all their players on a young, developing team, in addition to picking up a few fresh recruits.
The prospects of Oberlin tennis look very bright indeed.