The Pomona-Pitzer men’s tennis team (4-1, 2-0 SCIAC) battled through three hard-fought matches last weekend, ending with one 5-4 loss against Arizona Christian University (1-3) Friday and two 5-4 wins against California Institute of Technology (0-1, 0-1 SCIAC) and Cypress College (1-2) Saturday.
The Sagehens’ match got off to a rocky start against Arizona Christian with losses at all three doubles.
However, Jed Kronenberg PO ’21, Jacob Schoenherr PZ ’19, Sam Gearou PO ’19, and Joey Schwartz PZ ’21 ultimately captured wins at No. 1, 4, 5, and 6 singles even after splitting sets with their opponents.
After losing in No. 1 doubles, Kalyan Chadalavada PO ’18 was proud of the way the team bounced back in the singles “to give everything we have.” Although the Sagehens could not rack up enough matches to edge out their opponents, Chadalavada said “it showed us that we are better than we believe we are and have so much room to grow.”
Kronenberg agreed, appreciating “the heart” that he saw across the courts. “We really did a great job of fighting for every point no matter what was going on,” he said.
With their tough defeat at the hands of Arizona Christian in mind, the Sagehens triumphed Saturday at CalTech and on home turf against Cypress College.
The Sagehens topped the Beavers with an 8-6 win by Chadalavada and Kronenberg at No. 1 doubles and an 8-1 win by Josh Gearou PO ’19 and Marko Mandic PO ’18 at No. 2 doubles, while Jack Bernstein PO ’21 and Sam Malech PZ ’18 narrowly lost 9-8 (7-4) at No. 3 doubles.
Holding a 2-1 lead going into the singles, the Sagehens won three more matches to seal the victory.
Kronenberg and Josh Gearou captured wins at No. 1 and 2 singles, but the Beavers proved to be on top of their games, tallying victories at No. 3, 4, and 5 singles.
With the deciding point on the line, all eyes were on Sam Gearou’s match at No. 6 singles.
Gearou said he came into the match with low expectations about his opponent’s skill level.
“It wasn't until 2-2 in the first set that I realized that this player was pretty good, and had a lot of talent,” he said.
Taken by surprise, Gearou quickly lost the set 6-2. However, after some words with coach Steve Bickham during the changeover between sets, Gearou was reminded to return to his own game style by looking for as many opportunities at the net as possible.
“At 5-5 in the second set, I got really nervous, and got down 30-40 in the game, and I knew if I lost this game, I was going to lose the match because my opponent had been holding his serve easily the entire set,” he said.
With Schoenherr playing on the court next door, Gearou kept fighting on his own court.
“We were both fairly worn out the day before, but I think seeing each other still give it our all helped motivate us, because we were in it together,” Gearou said.
Serving some solid points, Gearou managed to string together enough points to take the second set 7-5.
Going into the third set, Gearou recognized how much his team was counting on him to win. “This gave me extra motivation and a bit of good pressure,” he said.
Up 5-2 in the third set, Gearou fell during a point, bruising his hand. However, with his teammates cheering him on the sidelines, he prevailed, ensuring victory for the Sagehens’ with a 6-3 third set win.
“He was really clutch and showed we can count on him the rest of the season,” Kronenberg said.
After the whirlwind match against CalTech came to an end, the Sagehens returned to the Pauley Tennis Courts for their third match of the weekend against the Cypress Chargers, debuting two new doubles teams and three new singles players for the season.
The Chargers took a 2-1 lead as the No.1 doubles team of Mandic and Josh Gearou won P-P’s sole doubles point 8-6.
Yet the Sagehens rallied with set wins at No. 1, 2, 3, and 5 singles from Josh Gearou, Octave Bellet PZ ’20, Mandic, and Quinn Hirsohn PZ ’20.
Kronenberg, Schoenherr, and Gearou, who had played earlier in the day against CalTech were proud of how their teammates handled the grueling double-header.
“Against Cypress we did an awesome job of being fired up even when we were exhausted,” Kronenberg said. “[Hirsohn] played great and [Bellet] did a great job playing clutch when it mattered to clinch the win.”
“Octave’s win at [No.2] singles was some of the best tennis that I have seen in Division III ever,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sam Gearou loved watching Mandic handle his “tricky opponent” with equally smart play.
“This had been [Mandic]'s fourth match of the day, so he had to be tired although it didn't look like it,” he said. “But he played really well, and it is inspiring to see how mentally and physically tough [he] is.”
Moving forward, the team learned how vital it is to play with energy throughout the match.
“From the Friday match, we realized how [being] defeated feels and how much our team depends on being focused and energetic from the first point,” Chadalavada said.