Marlin tennis keeps swinging

Instead of taking time off from practice or going on vacation, both the men’s and women’s tennis team of Virginia Wesleyan University packed their gear and headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina where they competed in the Spring Tennis Fest hosted by Professional Tennis Registry. While there, the teams competed in matches against teams from across the country.

Over the course of a week, the men’s team, now 6-6 overall, competed in four matches, three taking place on Hilton Head Island and the final match in Charleston, South Carolina on March 29 against Div. I Citadel.

The Marlins earned their fifth win of the season in the first match of the week on March 24 over Union College of Schenectady, New York. Their lead was secured early on by doubles pairs Nicholas Gunther and Mitchell Perry, and Anthony Wilson and Andres Combos, who helped the Marlins gain a 2-1 advantage heading into singles. From there it was smooth sailing for the team as they won five of the first six singles sets and advanced to win the match 6-1.

Three days later, the team fell to St. Olaf College 6-3. The Marlins were unable to gain much traction against St. Olaf early on in doubles, but they fought hard during singles and were able to grab three of the six sets to put their name on the board. “We came out a little slow against St. Olaf,” sophomore Nicholas Gunther said. “But the following day we were able to beat the University of St. Thomas, who had beaten St. Olaf a couple days before.” The doubles matches against St. Thomas gave VWU a leg up in the competition as they advanced to singles with a 2-1 lead thanks to Gunther and Perry, and Wilson and Combos securing wins against their opponents.

After a solid 7-2 win over St. Thomas, the team traveled two hours to Charleston where they faced Div. I team Citadel. Despite playing the match in Division III format, the Marlins were unable to secure a win over the Bulldogs and fell short 9-0.

The record of the men for their annual spring break trip comes to 2-2, the squad is currently 8-6 overall and ranked fourth in the ODAC.

The women’s team competed in two matches during their time in South Carolina.

The first team the women faced was Union College and due to a rainy forecast for Sunday, the Marlin’s opening match was moved up to Saturday night. This proved to be a difficult adjustment for the Marlins after the eight-hour drive south forced the match to be played in a no-ad format where singles were played first rather than doubles. At #4 singles, freshman Courtney Simmons fought her way back in the second set from her 6-1 loss in the first set losing the match 7-6.  At #3 singles junior Katie Staman grabbed an early lead and captured the first set 6-3 before dropping her lead and losing the match in the next sets. After several other close singles matches, the Marlins were down 4-2 and needed to win all three doubles matches to defeat Union. Despite fighting hard, the Marlins fell short, giving Union the deciding match and leaving the Marlins at a 6-2 loss.

The women’s tennis team faced another tough loss against central regional power the University of St. Thomas on March 28 after they dropped in all three matches of doubles and singles leaving them at a 9-0 loss.

“Despite losing both matches, it was still a really good experience,” freshman Audrey Bally said. “We were able to learn from the matches and grow as a team.”

The Marlins hold a 8-6 record overall after the Spring Tennis Fest and are currently ranked seventh in the ODAC.

Because the women’s team only played two matches compared to the four matches played by the men’s team, they decided to attend the men’s matches when they were not playing their own. “We really supported one another,” Bally said of the experience. “It was a great way for us to bond with each other and with the men’s team.”

The VWU tennis teams were not all business all week, however, and many of the athletes were able to enjoy the coast of South Carolina by visiting the beach and exploring Hilton Head between their practices and matches.

The men’s team returns to action on April 14 on the road against Roanoke for an ODAC match up, while the women’s teams face conference opponent Randolph-Macon College on April 11 on the road.

Jenna Whitener