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Filed under Sports

Men’s tennis earns weekend wins

Five matches played in two states in two days’ time equals one busy weekend. But for the Blugold men’s tennis team, it also resulted in five dual-meet victories.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, the Blugolds played three matches at home against St. Norbert College (Wis.), Loras College (Iowa) and Lakeland College (Wis.), as well as two matches in Iowa against Central College (Iowa) and Buena Vista University (Iowa). The team decisively won against all of the schools.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” coach Tom Gillman said. “They took on challenges and had good attitudes.

“It went as well as we hoped.”

The weekend kicked off Friday against St. Norbert. The team defeated all Green Knight players in singles and doubles competition to pick up the 9-0 win.

On Saturday, the Blugolds recorded similar results, but under very different circumstances. The team was divided in two, with half of the players staying at home and the others traveling for matches in Iowa. But splitting the team didn’t seem to have much of an impact, as the traveling team first defeated Buena Vista 9-0 and then Central 7-2. The Blugolds remaining in Eau Claire were also victorious, winning 9-0 against Loras and 8-1 over Lakeland.

In determining which Blugolds would compete at home and which would journey to Iowa, Gillman said some studying was required.

“You have to do a little bit of homework, assess the levels of different teams and the surfaces they will be playing on,” he said. “I just felt that splitting the squad was best.”

Gillman said it was a risk to divide the teams evenly as he did, but one that paid off in the end.

“I’d rather take a risk and get good playing experience for the squad than be afraid and not give the opportunity,” he said.

The success of the team when split said a lot about its depth, sophomore Chris Kuna said. He said the way the team played against such solid opponents was at times “unbelievable.”

Eau Claire has had one of the deepest rosters throughout the Midwest over the last several years, Gillman said. He also said schedules like this last weekend’s present opportunities for the younger players.

“It’s exciting for the young guys,” he said. “They don’t get to play every match. Not only did they get to play, they got to start and see what it’s like to play. . It will pay off in the future as they move higher up.”

While many players on the team won sets, several Blugolds didn’t lose a game in certain matches. Against Lakeland, freshmen Ben Robertson and Joe Sladky recorded back-to-back 6-0 sets from the No. 4 and 6 spots, respectively. Facing Buena Vista, junior Eric Wollum from the No. 2 spot and sophomore Matt Hambidge in the No. 6 also won all of their games.

In doubles competition, sophomore Dirk Van Rybroek and Wollum from the No. 2 spot and freshmen David Stingley and Florent Marco from the No. 3 earned perfect 8-0 victories. No. 2 spot duo junior Chris Thornton and freshman Joe Sladky also had 8-0 sets against Loras and Lakeland.

The five wins increase the Blugolds’ dual-meet winning streak to nine consecutive. Kuna said this weekend’s results exemplify how the season has started for the team.

“Right now, things are going amazing for our team,” Kuna said, adding it was a big win against nationally-ranked Carlton College on Feb. 26 that sparked the team’s streak. “Since then, the team has been improving and getting better and better.”

Though the Blugolds have next weekend off from regular competition, they will be playing in a YMCA tournament. The team will resume regular competition against Augustana College (Ill.) and Monmouth College (Ill.) on March 20 in Rock Island, Ill.

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