Sagehen men focused on fundamentals in bid to finally upset CMS tennis

A man holds a tennis racket and pumps his fist while looking off to the right of the image.
Nils Skattum PO ’22 celebrates a point in a close match against the Stags in the Sixth Street battle April 24, 2019. (Camila Mejia • The Student Life)

In the past 31 years, one constant has remained the same for the Sagehen men’s tennis team — it’s never beaten its Sixth Street rivals in a single match. 

Much has changed since 1989, though, and Jed Kronenberg PO ’21 is hoping this will be the year for Pomona-Pitzer (3-3, 2-0 SCIAC).

“Obviously, the goal is to beat [Claremont-Mudd-Scripps]. I think it would be the first time in 20 or 30 years, but hopefully we can give them a run for their money,” he said. “They’re definitely good again, but we think we are too.”

Kronenberg, who’s made multiple runs in the NCAA individual tournament and was First-Team All-SCIAC last year, is leading a P-P team that has performed well in the past, but is hungry for more.

The Hens last reached the postseason NCAA tournament as a team in 2015, in head coach Steve Bickham’s second year at the helm. They consistently send individual standouts to postseason competition as well.

But the program has won just a single SCIAC title, back in that 1989 season.

The Hens can hope, but for now, Kronenberg said they’re focused on fundamentals — improving their doubles play and their technique.

“We’ve been talking about trying to work on first serves and first returns, trying to make our first shot of each point better,” he said. “A lot of teams play indoors, which is really fast, so they’re really aggressive off the first ball. We play outdoors, and it’s a little bit slower, so we play a little bit more defense.”

P-P graduated two star seniors in Josh Gearou PO ’19 and Octave Bellet De Giacomoni PZ ’19, but added several key first-years whom Kronenberg hopes can jumpstart a win over the Stags.

“They haven’t really played our freshmen before, so hopefully our freshmen can be new faces that can win some matches,” he said. “I think I’ve done decently against CMS in the past too. We just gotta keep working hard. It’ll come as the season goes on.”

Another standout has been Jack Weiler PZ ’22, who impressed against Division I Southern Methodist University last weekend.

“He wasn’t really starting that much last year, but he’s really put himself into the lineup and improved a lot,” Kronenberg said. “He was the one win in singles against SMU.”

P-P will spend the next month hosting a slew of non-conference teams from around the country, but Kronenberg always has the bigger picture in mind.

“The ultimate goal is always to beat CMS,” he said. “The way the NCAAs work, if we were to make it, we would play them in the first round. … No matter what, we’re gonna have to beat them if we have any ultimate goal of winning the NCAAs.”

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