By Alex Pijanowski | Staff Writer
The beginning of any sports season is a time when teams are often excused for faltering slightly. For a number of reasons, most clubs would be justified in taking some time to regain their rhythm from the end of the previous season.
But this year, Kenyon’s men’s tennis team does not need to be excused for any disappointments.
As they return to play after several cold months where the team is unable to practice together and outdoor play is impossible, and while key players are recovering from injury and illness as a number of athletes have just returned from abroad, the Lords could certainly have been stymied by any number of obstacles this past weekend. But playing at home on Sunday, Feb. 9, the Lords defeated the Maroons of the University of Chicago by a whopping score of 8-1.
If the Lords tennis squad is playing so well during its early-season adjustment period, its potential for later-season competition seems monumental.
“For us to win that match 8-1, it’s a good sign for us that everybody is … ready to compete,” Head Coach Scott Theilke said. “I liked the result from this weekend; I was really happy about it.” This will be his 19th season coaching the team.
Thielke cited the performance by Wade Heerboth ’15 at No. 1 singles as especially impressive. Heerboth’s opponent, Deepak Sabada, is currently the 10th-ranked player in the country, though Heerboth made easy work of him, winning 6-1, 6-2. Jacob Huber ’15, along with Michael Roberts ’17, played the first doubles match of Huber’s career at No. 2 doubles, which he and Roberts won 8-6. Davis Thrailkill ’15 and Colin Haas ’15 also stepped into significant roles in the singles lineup and won their matches.
Sam Geier ’16, who won the singles bracket at the International Tennis Association Indoor Championships in September and is currently the fourth-ranked player in the country, is expected to be an indispensable part of the lineup this season. On Sunday, Geier played No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles alongside Tim Rosensteel ’15. Geier and Rosensteel defeated their U of Chicago counterparts 9-7 and, although Geier’s singles match was the team’s loss, he still played a well-fought match against Sven Kranz that went to three sets (6-2, 5-7, 6-4).
The team is already exceeding expectations, which were set high to begin with — a poll released in the fall has the team sitting at No. 5 in the nation. Thielke said there is an active online community of blogs and discussion boards which relate to Division III tennis. His perusal of these sites and forums suggested that most analysts predicted a close match of 5-4, with the winning team uncertain. But the Lords turned what many expected to be a close match into a resounding victory.
The doubles unit was a particularly effective part of the Lords’ attack on Sunday, contributing immensely to the stunning victory.
“We really haven’t been expected to win doubles, which was why [the commentators] thought it would be close,” Geier said. “But we had a bunch of close matches, and we ended up winning all of them, which was a huge confidence booster.”
Besides that, an already strong lineup will be fortified when three Lords — Tristan Kaye ’16, Michael Razumovsky ’15 and Robert Turlington ’16 — return from the disabled list later in the season. Both Razumovsky and Turlington won All-American honors last season.
“Three of our potential starters are not playing right now, so that hurts us,” Thielke said. “The fortunate thing for us is that we have a tremendous amount of depth.”
On Saturday, the Lords will play a doubleheader. In the morning, they will face the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and take on Earlham College in the evening. Both matches will take place in Gambier.