In its highly anticipated return to action for the 2013 season, the 10th-ranked Pomona-Pitzer men’s tennis team fell to the 15th-ranked Bates College Bobcats on a chilly Saturday night under the lights. Down 2-1 after doubles, P-P could not mount a comeback during singles play to get the victory.
From the onset, the Bobcats seemed entirely capable of accruing their first big victory of the season at the Sagehens’ expense. Bates quickly took the lead, breaking serve early on at both one and two doubles. Frankie Allinson PO ‘13 and Max Sabel PZ ‘13, who have developed a rapport together as doubles partners for several years, were unable to handle their Bobcat counterparts. After falling behind, Allinson and Sabel couldn’t find the momentum to break back against the strong serves of Crampton and Bettles for Bates, losing 8-6. The Sagehens’ Chris Wiechert PZ ‘13 and Kevin Wei PO ’15 did not have a particularly strong day at two doubles for the Hens and suffered an 8-4 loss. Connor Hudson PO ‘15 and Thomas Low PO ’16 proved to be the most consistent for the Sagehens at doubles, playing very strong tennis on the way to an 8-4 win.
The Sagehens would need to play especially well during singles in order to overcome the 2-1 deficit accumulated from doubles. P-P excelled on courts five and six, where Low and Kevin Prescott PO ‘13 were able to win their matches in two relatively easy sets. Prescott—an ITA Scholar All-American in 2012—lost only four games in his 6-3, 6-1 rout at court five. Thomas Low simply outplayed his opponent at six, quickly winning his match 6-4, 6-2.
Winning at both singles and doubles in his first collegiate match for the Hens, Low is already making a big impact for his team as a freshman. While Low played six singles and three doubles against Bates, expect him to slowly rise up the depth chart as the season progresses and he becomes more accustomed to college tennis.
Sabel, playing two singles for P-P, was no match for the Bobcats’ Bettles. Despite a tough second set that could have gone either way, Bettles prevailed 6-2, 6-4. Court four featured a similar storyline. Allinson lost a nerve-racking tiebreaker in the first set and could not recover afterward, losing 7-6 (6), 6-1.
With the score 4-3 at this point, the Sagehens would need a victory on both courts one and three to eke out the win. However, the Bobcats certainly had something else in mind. Connor “Chuddy” Hudson had a battle at court three, losing the first set 6-3 before countering for a 6-2 win in the second. With his shrieking grunts, Bates’ Timmy Berg proved too consistent for Hudson in the third set. Chuddy double faulted on match point to give Bates the team victory and Berg the 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win on the court.
Although the match had already been won, the most exhilarating tennis came on court one, featuring P-P’s Wiechert. Dominating at two singles last year, Wiechert must step up his game this season to compete as the one singles player for the Sagehens.
“I knew that I was being counted on to fill the top spot in the singles lineup,” Wiechert wrote in an e-mail to TSL, “so it is something that I have been preparing for ever since the season ended last May.”
Wiechert demonstrated why he is the Sagehens’ best player against Bates, demonstrating his resilience and shot-making skills throughout his matches. After being blown out 6-1 by the Bobcats’ Robert Crampton in the first set, Wiechert broke Crampton in the second and won the set 6-3 to even the match. The best tennis came in the third set, with both players trading breaks early on. Neither player could break once they got settled into the deciding set, and at 6-5, Crampton held for a tiebreaker to decide the match. Crampton was stronger when it counted and prevailed 7-4 to give Bates the 6-3 overall victory.
Despite the loss, the Sagehens have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the rest of the season.
“I thought that we showed great poise,” Head Coach Benjamin Belletto said, “but I know that we are capable of playing better. It’s always tough to play a team like Bates right out of the gate, and as the year goes on, we will continue to get better, but it is a match that we know we could have won.”
With several strong SCIAC competitors this year—most notably fifth-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps—the Sagehens are going to have to continue to improve in order to compete with the many skilled teams still left on their schedule. P-P will be back in action at home on March 6 as they take on North Carolina Wesleyan College.