This past weekend, the Kenyon men’s tennis team played on their home court, the Jasper Tennis Center, against three nationally ranked opponents.
The Lords opened their busy weekend by facing the No. 26 Kalamazoo Hornets Saturday morning. The Hornets were favorites to win entering the match, as Kenyon was unranked at the time. Kalamazoo hoped to realize these expectations and dominated doubles play, earning a 2-1 lead at the start of singles competition. Kenyon’s sole doubles win came from the consistent duo of Weston Noall ’18 and Alex Rieger ’18, who easily dispatched their opponents in No. 1 doubles.
Kalamazoo won the first singles match, giving the underdog Lords a 3-1 deficit to make up.
It was then that Kenyon rallied, with wins by Jacob Zalenski ’20 and Austin Diehl ’20 to tie up the score with their wins in the No. 1 and No. 3 matches. Zalenski’s impressive performance over the course of the weekend earned him North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Week. The Lords fed off this momentum, as Bryan Yoshino ’21, Noall and Michael Liu ’18 each won their pairings to put Kenyon at a 6-4 win.
Without a day’s rest, the Lords were back in action against No. 29 University of Mary Washington Eagles Saturday night. Once again, Noall and Rieger held the fort for Kenyon in No. 1 doubles, with a dramatic comeback win. The pair scored the only win for Kenyon in doubles, putting the Lords in a 2-1 deficit at the conclusion of doubles competition.
The Lords turned the tide in singles play. Consecutive wins from Diehl and Zalenski at No. 1 and No. 3 singles put Kenyon ahead with a 3-2 lead. This lead would not last as the Eagles won three of the remaining four pairings. Despite Liu’s win at No. 5 singles, the Lords fell to Mary Washington 4-5 in a hard-fought match.
Liu was happy with how the Lords competed that day. “I’m extremely proud of everybody because on Saturday, we were down there until 2 a.m., and everybody was still cheering hard and fighting hard,” Liu said. “I think it takes a lot of commitment to do that as a team and as an individual, so I’m very proud.”
Later in the day, Kenyon saw an opportunity for redemption as they faced No. 22 Sewanee: University of the South. The Tigers scored the first victory in doubles, but Noall and Rieger answered with a win to tie the score and keep Kenyon undefeated this weekend at No. 1 doubles. During the course of the match, the Lords switched their lineup, putting the pairing of Diehl and Zelenski at No. 3 instead of the usual No. 2. This move proved successful, as the duo dispatched their opponents 8-6, giving the Lords a lead entering singles competition for the first time this year.
Zalenski capitalized on this momentum, defeating Sewanee’s Jack Gray to put Kenyon ahead 3-1. Sewanee claimed back-to-back victories at No. 4 and No. 2 singles to tie the match, before Diehl broke their streak with a win at No. 3 singles. Liu then clinched the match with a win at No. 5 singles. His win left Noall’s No. 6 singles match unfinished but the Lords victorious.
“I thought the team did well this weekend. We were expected to win all three but came short with two wins,” Liu said. “I’m still very proud of the boys though — we fought hard. We were definitely ranked higher this time last year, but I feel like we are a better team this year. That will slowly show as we move up the rankings.”
After the results of this weekend, the Lords’ record stands at 2-2. They will be back in action this weekend as they begin conference play away against Wabash College and DePauw University.