Tennis opens with a loss

College tennis is the unusual sport that splits its season between the fall and spring semesters. Truman State’s men’s tennis team finished their fall campaign 2-0, but started this season with two close losses.
This spring the men will compete in conference play with seven dual meets against GLVC opponents. With tough competition lying ahead in the GLVC, similar to the MIAA, the men have some work to do and with the majority of the team being upperclassmen, this season has greater significance.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association released the top 10 rankings of Midwest colleges Nov. 4 and five of those schools, No. 1 University of Southern Indiana, No. 3 Drury University, No. 5 Rockhurst University, No. 7 Lewis University  and No. 9 McKendree University, were in the top 10. New rankings will come out at the end of the month, but luckily for Truman, they only have to play two of those teams during the regular season.
Even after the Bulldogs dropped the first two matches of the spring season, there are some bright spots. Senior Mike Merchant said juniors and seniors have been playing together for two and a half years and their chemistry can only get better. Improvement is a must because the GLVC has some higher standards to make the conference tournament than the MIAA. Merchant said the team thinks they can achieve this high standard.
“We have to actually place in the top four of our division, something different from the MIAA,” Merchant said. “Going into the conference tournament, then, we’re going up against teams that I know we can do well against.”
The team mostly is juniors and seniors, as four of the nine players are leaving the team after this semester. What will happen to that leadership when seniors like Merchant, Kirk Schlueter, Adam King and Joe Murphy-Baum graduate?
Murphy-Baum said he sees a strong leader in his teammate junior Jake Ohlhausen.
“We do speeches in our huddles before matches and Jake is usually the one that’s giving them, so he’s definitely a leader,” Murphy-Baum said. “It’s good to work off of each other in terms of leadership and it’s nice to not have one person on the team since we’re so small.”
Ohlhausen’s doubles partner, junior Griffin Smith, is the other upperclassmen on the team. Smith said he and Ohlhausen are ready to put together a solid season this year and focus on what needs to be done to get the team to the GLVC tournament. Smith and Ohlhausen had two solid wins in their last two matches, and Smith said the duo can continue to win with their talents.
Personal goals are a significant goal of these teammates as well, though, as Smith said he wanted to attain All-Conference honors for his singles play. Murphy-Baum said his biggest goal was to go undefeated during singles for the spring, and Merchant said he just wants to win in his sixth spot as much as possible so the team has the best chance to win.
It’s clear this game is about both individual efforts and how those individual goals can benefit the team. Smith said the team could potentially make a move in the postseason.
“Definitely one of our goals is to make the conference tournament in St. Louis,” Smith said. “On top of that, we want to win some matches at conference, not just be there.”
The first time to catch the Bulldogs in action will be during the beginning of March, but for now the men’s team prepares for the road matchup on Saturday against Ashford University, in Clinton, Iowa, marking another matchup during a season in which many will call their last.

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