The Hillsdale College men’s tennis team will kick off its spring season with two matches this weekend at 4:30 pm Friday against Daemen College and at 2 pm Saturday against Ill-Springfield College.
We’re excited to get going,” head coach Keith Turner said. “The guys are playing well and we definitely have a solid team that should be a little bit stronger than last year’s team. It’ll be interesting. We’re playing two solid teams this weekend.”
The No. 10 team in the Midwest region, senior captain Dugan Delp said the Chargers are the favorite to win the G-MAC.
“We are significantly better than we have been for the last two years, so that obviously helps us more than than just switching conferences,” Delp said.
Delp said the team has grown exponentially since its inception.
“The difference between two years ago when we were about to have our first season versus now is just leaps and bounds different as far as not only talent but also preparedness and expectation confidence,” Delp said. “Whereas two years ago none of us had ever played a college match before.”
Turner said that new and healthy players will strengthen their team.
“[Freshman] Gabe Katz has been a great addition to the team,” Turner said. “He makes us a much deeper team and, in general, we’ve got some good depth in the lineup this year.”
Turner said that sophomore Milan Mirkovich will start at No. 1 singles, and Katz at No. 4 singles.
Turner said that his top two doubles teams will return, but also sophomore Michael Szabo, who will be teamed with sophomore Julien Clouette, partly due to their fall doubles win over Grand Valley State University last fall.
Sophomore Charlie Adams and junior Justin Hyman’s doubles team is ranked 8th in the Midwest region.
Turner said that junior John Ciraci, who injured his shoulder last year, was the most improved player.
Turner laid out a few goals for this season: to win the G-MAC and to make the NCAA tournament.
But the third-year team will face a harder battle after switching to the G-MAC, Turner said.
“The GLIAC was a pretty strong conference and honestly, the G-MAC this first year was pretty weak,” Turner said. “So we had to schedule a lot of the good out-of-conference schools because we don’t get an automatic bid into the tournament because we only have five teams in the conference this year, so that’s a big disadvantage to us, unfortunately.”
NCAA regionals only took the top seven teams from the region last year, all teams Turner said the Chargers will face this season.
“We’re playing quite a few of those teams ahead of us in the rankings,” Ciraci said. “So if we play as well as we’re capable of playing, I see no reason why we wouldn’t end up in the NCAA tournament.”
“The top two teams in the year of the host sides,” Ciraci said. “It could be anyone.”
The Chargers have faced every opponent either in GLIAC or G-MAC play, and are confident about their ability to win it, Delp said.
Delp said that although they team is traveling about the same distance, the are more Southern miles rather than driving to the Upper Peninsula.
In addition, each team plays at its home as well as its opponents home courts.
Turner said that their schedule will show how the team matches on a regional ranking.
“I intentionally put a real tough schedule so hopefully we can beat one or two of these teams ahead of us,” Turner said. “We’ll see what happens.”