Despite blizzard conditions through mid-April and the Skoglund fieldhouse being out of commission, the St. Olaf men’s and women’s tennis teams overcame many obstacles and both wrapped up promising seasons last week.
The women’s team finished with a 5-4 win against the College of St. Benedict, totalling seven wins out of 13 conference matches this season and, for the first time in two years, finishing above .500. “At the end of the match we were down in match score – they had won 4 matches and we had won two,” Head Coach Scott Nesbit wrote in an email. “We had three first-year players still on the court. They all won.” In addition to St. Ben’s, the Oles won matches against the University of Northwestern Minnesota, Luther College, Hamline University, St. Catherine’s University and Concordia College over the course of their March-April season. While the Oles were unable to secure a playoff spot, the team is incredibly young and shows promise for later seasons.
On the other side, the men’s team had a less triumphant end to their 5-7 season, losing 0-9 to conference rival Carleton College on April 27. Despite the loss, Nesbit said the Carleton match was the highlight of the men’s season for him because the team was able to play outside. “We had a large group of fans supporting us. We played a talented squad and competed well against them,” Nesbit wrote.
During the men’s season, the Oles secured wins against Hamline University, Saint Mary’s University, Virginia Wesleyan College and Bethel University.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams improved their records from last year. In the 2016-2017 season, the men went 1-12, and the women’s 7-9. It is no question both programs are still on the rise.
The Bring Ice Home initiative and resulting ice rink project removed Skoglund fieldhouse use since construction began at the beginning of the spring term. Previously, the fieldhouse had been one of the primary practice spaces. Both teams had to relocate to Tostrud center.
“We are fortunate to have three nice courts in the Tostrud fieldhouse to practice on. However, the weather complicated the facility’s schedule. This meant more teams were practicing indoors, resulting in later evening practices rather than the nicer afternoon practice times,” Nesbit wrote.
The absence of the fieldhouse was especially difficult this year considering the outdoor courts spent most of the spring covered in snow. “The incredibly long winter took its toll both physically and mentally,” Nesbit wrote. “Physically it meant playing more matches in our last week than we normally do because of rescheduling. This lack of recovery time was tough on the player’s bodies. Mentally, it meant more travel to other indoor courts around the state for matches, which meant longer hours. Also we were unable to host any home matches outside for the men and only two for the women. Thus, the friends and family of players were not able to come watch and cheer their Oles on.”
Leaders Margaret Zimmerman ’18, Sophia Skoglund ’18 and Erin McDonald ’18 will be graduating from the women’s team this spring, along with seniors Christian Beck ’18, Lucas Heilman ’18 and Danny Hogan ’18 from the men’s side.
Nesbit said next year will be difficult to predict as both teams are losing top players. But, after the underclassmen’s performances this season, the coach remains hopeful about the younger talent’s ability to fill the void.
“We have good first players on both the men’s and women’s teams. They will help us in the years to come. We are looking forward to another good year of tennis at St. Olaf.” The Oles look to reload and continue to improve next season.