The Hillsdale College men’s tennis team split matches over spring break before dropping a lengthy match to the Tiffin Dragons 5 – 4 on Wednesday night.
On the first weekend of spring break the Chargers fell 6 – 3 to Grand Valley State University, the No. 3 ranked team in the GLIAC, last Friday in the Biermann Athletic Center.
Hillsdale took three singles matches in the effort, but no doubles matches.
Junior Justin Hyman won No. 3 singles by default. Senior captain Dugan Delp was a No. 5 singles winner 2 – 6, 6 – 4, 6 – 4 and freshman Gabe Katz seized a No. 6 singles win 6 – 4, 7 – 6, 7 – 2.
Head coach Keith Turner and senior captain Dugan Delp agreed their team didn’t play well against Grand Valley, partly due to midterm season stress.
“Our team didn’t perform at our highest level,” Delp said. “We came out with low energy, and right from the start, they got on us. Against teams like Grand Valley you can’t give them anything right off the bat, so going down 3 – 0 in doubles was really crippling.”
Sophomore Julien Clouette said the team warmed up, but it came too late.
“The guys play better in singles, but it wasn’t enough to get back in the match,” Clouette said. “Overall, the way we lost was disappointing. We kind of needed that win to ensure we get to regionals. It’s still possible, but it’s going to be harder now.”
On March 6, the Chargers fell to St. Leo University, ranked No. 7 in the NCAA.
The Lions swept singles matches, but surrendered two doubles matches. Hyman and sophomore Charlie Adams won No. 1 doubles 8 – 5. Sophomores Julien Clouette and Milan Mirkovic took No. 3 doubles 8 – 4.
“St. Leo is No. 7 in the nation,” Turner said. “We were actually up 2 – 1 after doubles, but their singles were just on a different level than ours, but it was a good performance by us.”
Clouette said the South is the strongest region in the country. The Lions are ranked fifth in the region.
“We thought we could win so we were like, ‘yeah, why not?’” Clouette said. “Even the match we lost at No. 1 doubles was really close.”
Clouette said Southern Indiana’s No. 1 singles player, Thomas Grinberg, competed in the ATP, an international tennis league, and was ranked the No. 5 singles player in the ATP and No. 4 in doubles play in 2016 after finishing his season 13 – 2.
“So we were happy with how we played that match,” Clouette said.
Hyman was named the G-MAC Player of the Week on Wednesday. Hyman is 6 – 3 for doubles on the season.
Delp said the score didn’t reflect the competitive nature of the match.
“We were right there during all the matches,” Delp said. “I don’t think they expected us to be as good as we were. We were fighting to the last point, and we’re all very proud of our efforts. Justin and Charlie’s doubles match was against a top-ranked player in the world.”
Delp said the team learned its lesson from the loss against Grand Valley.
“Grand Valley is a team that we could beat, but definitely not playing the way that we did,” Delp said. “So we took it as a lesson in preparation and focus for sure. We tried to correct our mistakes in our next two matches over spring break, and we’re using that loss as a bit of motivation to fuel our fire for the rest of our season.”
The Chargers toppled the University of Southern Indiana 5 – 4 on March 7 with four singles, and one doubles victory.
Mirkovic won No. 1 singles 6 – 4. 6 – 7, 6 – 2. Adams won No. 2 singles 7 – 6, 6 – 3 in straight sets and then paired with Hyman at No. 1 doubles 8 – 4. Hyman won No. 3 singles 6 – 4, 6 – 0. Delp won No. 4 singles 6 – 3, 6 – 1.
“It was our best win of the year,” Turner said. “They are No. 7 in the Midwest. We are No. 10, so that was a huge match for us to knock someone off above us. It was a very even match. Came down to a long, three-set match by Milan that he pulled out in the third set. It was one of those nerve-wracking matches, but it was a great win for us.”
Delp said the next few matches will determine if the Chargers compete in the NCAA tournament.
“These matches were very important for NCAA entry as well as our regional rankings,” Delp said. “We came out really strong and it was just night and day from Grand Valley how tough we played and how focused we were and how high are energy was.”
The Chargers will face the Walsh Cavaliers and the Davis & Elkins Senators this weekend in important G-MAC matchups.