Men’s tennis sweeps competition

Eau Claire takes home three victories from weekend home meet, improves to 5-3 overall

Story by Nate Beck, Chief Copy Editor

One match.

That’s all the UW-Eau Claire men’s tennis team gave up in three contests at home last Friday and Saturday inside McPhee Physical Education Center.

Blugold racquet-swingers held both St. Norbert College and Loras College (Iowa) scoreless on Friday night and Saturday morning.

“It’s infinitely better when you’re on the winning end (of a sweep),” head coach Tom Gillman said.

The Eau Claire men also cut down Milwaukee School of Engineering 8-1 Saturday afternoon, to cap a four-game win streak after Eau Claire senior Ryan Vande Linde dropped a close game at No. 1 singles 1-6, 7-6, 10-7.

The Blugolds now sit above the .500 mark, 5-3 overall this spring, after dropping three of their first four contests to out-of-state schools.

Loras drops to 0-3 this year, St. Norbert and MSOE are at 1-5.

Gillman said freshmen duo Austin Auleta and Michael Mauthe were strong on doubles Saturday. They knocked off a Loras pair 8-0, and Mauthe scooped up a singles win 6-1, 6-0 to close out the matchup.

“There’s no substitute for match play,” Gillman said. “We’ve just got to keep throwing them out there. There’s some pretty darn good maturity for a team this young.”

But the Blugolds will come bumper-to-bumper with tough competition at their next match, March 7 against No. 13-ranked Elmhurst College, and the next day against No. 19 Carthage College.

Eau Claire sophomore Kyle Hoffman said the team will need to play tight to take down both ranked schools.

“A big goal for this season is to get into the top 25,” Hoffman said. “If we do well against Elmhurst and Carthage, that could help us.”

Of the Blugold’s 14-man squad, 10 are freshmen, two are seniors and three more are sophomores. Eau Claire senior and  captain Joe Meier said he was impressed with how the younger players performed Saturday and Sunday.

“There weren’t many weak points this weekend,” he said. “Being able to play the same in matches as practice is huge … If they freeze, things can go downhill fast.”

Meier said first-year players sometimes hit well in practice, but melt under gametime pressure. Last year, the Blugolds would “play to the other team’s level” and lose matches they could’ve won. This season, he said he’s trying to break this trend in practice.

This weekend, Eau Claire will compete in the United States Coaches Association tournament, an individual event, at the Eau Claire TMCA tennis center. Meier said the tournament is an opportunity for younger players to learn how to block out doubts.

“The best we can hope for is to simply get better this weekend,” Meier said. “We need to focus on playing good matches and controlling  emotions.”