The Hillsdale College men’s tennis team carried away a two-match win streak from Erie, Pennsylvania, on Monday night. The Chargers toppled Mercyhurst University 5 – 4 on Saturday Feb. 18 to improve their record to 2 – 2. The Chargers took 4 of 5 single matches from the Lakers, who are ranked third in the Atlantic region.
Head coach Keith Turner said the win was “the biggest win in the program’s existence.”
Freshmen Milan Mirkovic and Julian Clouette clenched the lone doubles win of the match, 8 – 1.
“A second-year program upsetting a No. 3 ranked team is unheard of,” Turner said. “Mirkovic went 4 – 0 in singles — he stood out from the rest,” Turner said.
Sophomore Justin Hyman won at No. 2 singles 6 – 3, 6 – 4. Junior captain Dugan Delp won 7 – 5, 6 – 0 at No. 4 singles, and sophomore John Ciraci won No. 6 singles 7 – 0, 3 – 0.
Mirkovic moved from Croatia to play for Hillsdale, and was originally concerned about the second-year team.
“Now I see that our age is a great thing, because we all started together and support each other,” Mirkovic said. “Beating Mercyhurst proves our team’s potential. In the following few months, we will perform better, and beat teams better than Mercyhurst.”
Mirkovic attributed his 4 – 0 singles record to Turner’s practices.
“I wasn’t playing well beginning the season, because I played less often in Croatia, but practices have increased my levels of play,” Mirkovic said.
Mirkovic said he wasn’t aware of Mercyhurst’s ranking, which was to his benefit.
“I knew they were good, just not that good,” Mirkovic said. “I was more relaxed, which allowed me to play a good match.”
The Charger’s back-to-back wins follow a loss to Lewis University.
“Lewis has the top two ranked players in the region and are overall a tough team,” Turner said. “We lost 7 – 2 last year, only 6 – 3 this year. Their coach complimented our improvement.”
Turner said they need to improve doubles play if they hope to beat better teams.
The Chargers went on to defeat Daemen College 7 – 2 on Sunday night, improving their record to 3 – 2.
The team won five singles matches, with three of the wins going to seven sets. Hyman won 8 – 2 at No. 1 doubles, but Ciraci and freshman Charlie Adams were defeated 8 – 5 at No. 2. Mirkovic and Clouette won 8 – 5 at No. 3 to clinch the close win.
“We could have won by more, but we played sluggishly,” Turner said. “We reacted well to the doubles loss — some teams end up throwing the match over it, but we finished strong,”
Mirkovic and Clouette have been a strong doubles team, and Mirkovic said they hope to continue their success.
“We underestimated Daemon, because we beat them 9 – 0 last year,” Mirkovic said. “They gave Julian and I serious trouble in doubles.”
The Chargers are chasing their team goals of finishing above .500 and placing in the top five in the GLIAC. To this end, they are focusing more on wins, rather than scores.
“Score does matter, but it’s not everything. Winning is winning, and winning two games in two days is a huge accomplishment for such a young team,” Mirkovic said.
The Chargers will play their first conference match against Grand Valley on Feb. 25, at Premier Athletic Club in Grandville, Michigan.
“Grand Valley and Ferris State are probably the two best teams we will play all year,” Turner said. “We were competitive with both teams last year, so hopefully we can keep the matches close this year and make things interesting.”