Men’s tennis splits season-opening matches

Story by Anna Soldner

The UW-Eau Claire men’s tennis team opened their season with a pair of matches on Saturday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The team lost 3-6 to Coe College (Iowa) in their early match, but they bounced back in their afternoon match with an 8-1 win over Westminster College (Mo.).

Coach Tom Gillman said he was pleased with the way his team was able to perform through such a long day.

“We have a good group, and we definitely took on a challenge day,” Gillman said. “We basically played for eight hours straight and the guys were up for that, didn’t complain and kept trying hard, so it just comes down to us trying to learn and continue to strive to get better.”

Sophomore Ryan Vande Linde competed in No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles against Coe, winning his singles match 7-5, 7-5.

“I thought we played pretty well,” Vande Linde said. “We kind of expected to beat Coe, but they’re a really good team. They played pretty well (and) we just didn’t execute all the way.”

The team has a relatively young starting line up with one freshman and two sophomores, including No. 6 singles player sophomore Joe Meier, who crushed his Coe opponent 6-2, 6-2.

“We thought we’d have some strength at the top of the line up, but I’m happy to see that it looks like we’ll be a deep team,” Gillman said. “Some of the young guys showed a lot of potential this weekend, so that bodes very well for the rest of the season.”

Senior Chris Kuna, who plays in the No. 1 spot for both singles and doubles, views the less experienced players as an asset rather than a detriment.

“We have some young guys in our starting lineup, which is good.” Kuna said. “I like the opportunity to lead younger guys.”

Coach Gillman said the team is adjusting to a new doubles roster and working on staying relaxed during matches.

“I asked the players to compete the whole day and give a good effort and hustle and have a good attitude, and I think they did a lot of that,” Gillman said. “I think that’s the number one thing, the major things we’re looking for, so I was happy that we started the season with very good effort and guys competing hard.”

Although the team is slightly inexperienced, Vande Linde said they are confident in their abilities and determined to succeed as the season progresses.

“Our big goal at the end of year is to get into the NCAA tournament, but we’re just going to take it one match at a time,” Vande Linde said. “This is a really good team, so I think we have a lot of potential to go far.”

Up next, the Blugolds will face Carthage College at 7 p.m. on Friday in Winona, Minn.