The Pomona-Pitzer men’s tennis team kicked their season into high gear with a series of matches against top competition in the last two weeks. In the span of nine days, the Sagehens played 19th-ranked Mary Washington, Swarthmore, Haverford, 11th-ranked Trinity College, 16th-ranked Carnegie Mellon, sixth-ranked Kenyon and 22nd-ranked Skidmore. The Sagehens’ only setbacks in that stretch were a pair of 5-4 losses to Trinity and Kenyon.
The Sagehens’ stretch featured a number of outstanding performances. After falling behind 2-1 in doubles against Mary Washington, the Sagehens won five singles matches in convincing fashion to win 6-3. Tommy Meyer PO ’12 dropped only two games, Chris Wiechert PZ ’14 rolled off five straight games to close out a 6-1, 6-2 win, and Frankie Allinson PO ’13 and Connor Hudson PO ’15 swept their first sets en route to victories.
The Sagehens were able sweep their doubles matches against both Swarthmore and Haverford. Against Swarthmore, Meyer dropped the first set but came back to take the second set 6-3 and win the third-set tiebreaker to take the match. Wiechert, Max Sabel PZ ’13, and Hudson all had straight-set wins to close out the 7-2 win over Swarthmore. Against Haverford, the tennis team’s depth was on display as Coach Ben Belletto rested his top singles players, giving a trio of first-years a chance to gain experience. Michael Chang PZ’ 15, Kevin Wei PO’ 15 and Connor Sutton PO’ 15 all won in straight sets, with Sutton leaving his opponent with a pair of goose eggs.
The Sagehens were facing Trinity University for the second time this season. They lost to the Tigers 6-3 in the ITA Indoor Nationals in February. The rematch was close throughout, but Trinity was able to fend off a few key match points and eke out a narrow victory. Wiechert and Sutton gave the Sagehens their lone doubles win, and Meyer split the first two sets, taking the third-set tiebreaker for a big singles win against Trinity’s Max Frey, who made it to the NCAA DIII semifinals a year ago.
The Sagehens bounced back after that hard-fought loss with a 6-3 win over Carnegie Mellon. Sabel and Allison won a thriller of a doubles match in which they faced two match points in a third-set tiebreaker. That doubles win gave the Sagehens a 2-1 lead heading into their singles matches, and Meyer, Wiechert, Sabel and Hudson won with strong performances.
Like Trinity, Kenyon had played the Sagehens in Minneapolis and won, 6-3. All three doubles matches in the second meeting were close, but Kenyon pulled out a win in a tiebreaker against Meyer and Uday Singh PO ’12 that gave them a 2-1 lead going into singles. Both teams won three singles matches, so Kenyon held on for a tight victory.
“We played them better than we did before,” Meyer said, “but we’re trying to turn those 5-4 losses into 5-4 wins.”
After that loss, the Sagehens rebounded with a strong performance against Skidmore. P-P’s top four singles players and top two doubles teams won, giving the Sagehens a 6-3 victory that improved their overall record to 7-6 on the season.
“I don’t like to lose… I hate losing, especially because in both of those matches we had points that would have ultimately given us a win,” Belletto said. “It’s tough to be that close and not win, but at the same time, we played those teams earlier and we had better results. It’s always tough to lose matches where you had the opportunity to win, but you want to be in a position where you feel you have the opportunity to win, and we had those chances.”
Wiechert has not lost a singles match since the ITA Nationals, a streak of ten straight wins—the longest on the team this year.
“Last year it took him a little while to learn how good he could be,” Belletto said. “He’s been more disciplined, more patient and more importantly he’s been focused and he’s been playing with a lot of confidence. The streak’s nice, but he’s approaching every match with a lot of focus, and that’s made a difference.”
Wiechert was recognized this past week as the West regional co-player of the week.
This weekend, the Sagehens will play Amherst, the first-ranked team in the nation. Although sure to be a challenge, Belletto stressed that the tennis team will treat it just like every other match.
“We approach every single match the exact same way. We make sure we have a good week in practice and that we work to get better every single day,” he said. “Amherst is a great team, but we’re going to approach this match the same as any other.”