When one looks at the roster of the St. Ben’s tennis team, a very clear pattern can be seen under the “Year” column; there is an abundance of first-year players.
The Blazer tennis team’s roster boasts six first-years, one sophomore and two juniors. The team is clearly in a stage of growth, but with growth comes growing pains.
The young tennis team has struggled lately, losing its last six matches and missing a spot in the end of the season MIAC playoffs.
Despite the tough finish to end of the season, the Blazers have shown flashes of a team with a bright future ahead and as a result the team is looking toward their last match of the season with optimism.
Head Coach Michael Engdahl sees the final match of the season as an opportunity to improve on one of the team’s greatest struggles this season: consistency.
“We have shown throughout the year we can compete with any team in the MIAC,” Engdahl said. “Where they seem to beat us is we have too many moments where we give them free points or we lose some competitive edge. This last match we are really going to look for that competitive edge from the first point to the last point.”
The players are also looking at this match as an opportunity to improve.
First-year Lauren Clark is hopeful that the last match will provide practice for next season.
“The main goal we’ve been focusing on is simply outcompeting the other team with the mentality that the wins will eventually start coming if we work hard,” Clark said. “Hopefully this last match of the season will be a good way for us to practice competing without overthinking things.”
The Blazers’ ability to keep that competitive edge through struggles is one of the biggest positives from the season and Clark believes that their difficulties have given the young team solid experience for the future.
“It has been hard to remain optimistic through all of it but I think the team has managed to stay mentally tough given the circumstances and I think this will help us in years to come,” Clark said.
With such a young team, the Blazers hope to take that mental toughness into the offseason and be ready to compete next year.
Junior Ellen Stensrud stressed the importance of having all players return for next season.
“We are very excited to not be graduating any of our teammates this year,” Stensrud said. “This will allow us to maintain our strong team chemistry and we can develop and improve as a team rather than individuals.”
Coach Engdahl agreed and also emphasized his belief that the team is ready to take a big step forward.
“This offseason is going to be a big one for our team,” Engdahl said. “We have set high goals for ourselves and we cannot complete them unless we take responsibility to keep working and improving this offseason.”
With such a young team the future is bright for Blazer tennis.
The team looks to finish this season strong on April 29 at Hamline and to start preparing for a promising new year.