Section: Sports

Men’s tennis competes in California against tough foes

Over the break, the No. 31 Kenyon men’s tennis team traveled to California to take on a slew of ranked and unranked opponents. The Owls split their six matches evenly, going 3-3 to return to Gambier with a 5-4 record. 

On March 4, Kenyon faced off against No. 18 California Institute of Technology and escaped with a narrow 5-4 victory. In doubles play, the Owls took an early 2-1 lead. Paulo Pocasangre Kreling ’26 and Eliezer Gonzalez ’26 won the No. 1 matchup 8-6, while Alejandro Gonzalez ’27 and Eric Zhang ’25 won the No. 3 matchup 8-4. Kenyon’s 2-1 lead proved crucial, as the two teams split the six singles games. Pocasangre Kreling and Alejandro Gonzalez stayed undefeated, winning the No. 1 and No. 3 matchups 6-3, 6-1 and 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, respectively. Finally, Gianluca Bocanegra ’27 emerged victorious in the No. 5 match, winning handily 6-1, 6-4.

The next day, Kenyon fell to No. 35 Chapman University (Calif.) 2-7. After being swept in doubles play, the Owls picked up their two wins thanks to Rishil Kondapaneni ’25 and Bocanegra in singles play. Kondapaneni won the No. 2 matchup 6-3, 6-1, while Bocanegra won the successive matchup 6-3, 6-3.

On March 8, Kenyon took on the Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) tennis team and fell 3-6. The Owls were once again swept in doubles play, which spelled their doom as they split the remaining six singles matchups. In the No. 1 match, Pocasangre Kreling emerged with a grueling 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory. Kondapaneni doubled Kenyon’s point total in the No. 2 matchup, winning 7-6, 6-2. Finally, in the No. 4 singles game, Eliezer Gonzalez took the first set 7-6, before his opponent withdrew, handing Kenyon its third and final point. 

A day later, No. 7 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (Calif.) swept Kenyon 7-0. The match was played with Division I rules, meaning that the overall winner of doubles play earned one point total. With multiple matches going to extra sets, the Owls could ultimately not keep up with the Stags. 

In an email to the Collegian, Pocasangre Kreling outlined one of the biggest areas Kenyon could work on. “We have to improve in our doubles play,” he said. “Doubles matches often prove to be crucial turning points in team competitions. Whenever we start strong in doubles, it sets a positive tone for the rest of our matches, and we tend to perform better overall.”

The Owls did just that when they took on Whittier College (Calif.), their third match in as many days, and handily won 8-1. In doubles play, Pocasangre Kreling and Eliezer Gonzalez won 8-4, while Kondapaneni and Rakkan Audeh ’25 won 8-2 in the No. 3 match. The Owls spread their wings and flexed their muscles in singles play, winning all matches in straight sets and never losing more than three games a set. Pocasangre Kreling, Kondapaneni, Alejandro Gonzalez, Bocanegra and Audeh all notched wins. Finally, Harshal Rukhaiyar ’24 won the No. 6 matchup 6-0, 6-0, a perfect victory.

In the last matchup of Kenyon’s spring break trip, the Owls took on No. 11 Sewanee (Tenn.) and came away with a thrilling 5-4 win. Doubles play again proved to be the difference. In the No. 2 matchup, Pocasangre Kreling and Bocanegra won 8-6, while in the No. 3 matchup, both Gonzalezes, Eliezer and Alejandro, teamed up and ultimately won 8-4. Entering singles play, the Tigers won the first three matches to take a 4-2 lead. Down but not out, Kenyon began to rally. Audeh won the No. 6 match 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to get the Owls on the board in singles play. Afterward, Alejandro Gonzalez won the No. 3 match 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to get the Owls even. Finally, Eliezer Gonzalez prevailed in the No. 5 match 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to upset Sewanee and end Kenyon’s trip on a high.

After a deserved break, the Owls will next face off against No. 8 University of Chicago on March 31. Looking ahead to the remaining season, Pocasangre Kreling is eager for what’s to come. “As a team, our main objective is to win the conference. We’re determined to work together, support each other, and elevate our performance to surpass our conference rivals,” he said. “With tough opponents coming up, both as individuals and as a team, we’re staying strong, staying determined and looking for every chance to do our best on the court. Our goal is to show what we’re made of this season and give it our all to succeed.”

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