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Junior Dugan Delp in a match last season. (Photo: Anders Kiledal / Hillsdale Collegian)

With four new players and a year of experience under the team’s belt, the Hillsdale College men’s tennis team toppled Cedarville University during its first spring home match last Friday. 

Led by head coach Keith Turner, the Chargers went 5-9 last season, their first conference season since resurrection, finishing ninth in the GLIAC.

The six-member team played well last year, but is looking forward to the freshmen bringing new depth. 

“Our freshmen will push the other players to be better. No starting spots are final,” Turner said. 

One of the Charger’s toughest opponents will be Ferris State, which advanced to the national semifinals in 2016, and will return with its top players.

Sophomore Dugan Delp led the team as the only non-freshman last year, and is looking forward to ramping up play this season.  

“Our goal was to make the GLIAC tournament, but given our fall performance and the GLIAC playoffs accepting eight teams instead of six, we plan to finish in the top five,” Delp said. “We want a season above .500 — in and out of conference.”

The Chargers dropped their final match last season to Findlay 8-1.

“We were neck and neck with them in statistics, but Gianpiero Placidi was injured, and we underperformed,” said Delp. “We are a better and stronger team this year.”

Last year’s team size forced players to compete in multiple matches, but the new players bring competition to the starting lineup. 

“Injuries hurt us last year, because everyone had to play singles and doubles, but we have strong freshmen who will keep us on our toes,” Delp said. “I’m looking forward to see how we compete against Cedarville.”

The Charger’s biggest challenge last season was inexperience.

“We got our nerves out last season. Now we know what to expect for each team, and we are ready for our tough schedule this season,” Turner said.

Delp faced a leadership role the team’s first season, which he said was a challenge with having no collegiate experience. This year, he suspects a large impact from the newest members of the team. 

“Our freshmen from Croatia, Tennessee, Canada, and Michigan are all strong players and will be breaking into our lineup,” Delp said. 

Though moving to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference next season, the Chargers still plan to play GLIAC teams in nonconference matches.

“It will be nice to pick and choose GLIAC teams we want to play based on how competitive they are,” Delp said. “I think the GMAC will be an opportunity for us to find success, earn regional rankings, and make some playoffs.”

Delp led the Chargers to a 9-0 nonconference win over Cedarville on Friday. 

The Chargers won six single matches straight-set, while the doubles team won with a combined score of 24-4.  

Freshman Charlie Adams won at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-1. Sophomore Justin Hyman won at No. 2 singles, 6-0, 6-3, and freshman Milan Mirkovic won at No. 3, 6-1, 6-1.

Hyman and Delp won at No. 1 doubles, 8-1, while Adams and Ciraci shutout the Yellow Jackets at No. 2 doubles, 8-0.

“It was a perfect way to start the season,” Turner said. “I have zero complaints.”

The Chargers were defeated 6-3 on Monday at Lewis University in Plainfield, Illinios. 

Mirkovic won at No. 3 singles, 6-3, 7-5, and freshman Julien Clouette won at No. 6 singles,  6-3, 6-4. The two teamed up to win at No. 3 doubles, 8-7. 

The Chargers will face Mercyhurst Feb. 18 at Westwood Racquet Club in Richmond, Virginia.