By Kevin Dudley – [email protected]
The Johnnie tennis team opened the new Chang Tennis Facility in style with 7-2 win over Macalester on Saturday, April 1. It was the Johnnies first win in MIAC play, and one that puts them back in the playoff picture.
Sophomore Jonah Punnoose talked about the emphasis the team put on this match.
“We knew that we had to focus on this one if we wanted to have any shot at the playoffs,” Punnoose said.
The Johnnies started the match well winning two out of three doubles matches, highlighted by a key 9-7 win at No. 3 from sophomore Hunter Krebsbach and first-year Ben Mckimm. Junior Tim Larson felt this was a turning point in the match.
“Our third doubles team gave us a lot of momentum going into singles,” Larson said.
The Johnnies also won five of six singles matches. Larson started the Johnnies off with a straight set win (6-3, 6-2) to move up to 7-4 at No. 1 for the Johnnies this season. Sophomore Ryan Meger also recorded a straight set victory at No. 2 (6-3,6-1).
Punnoose won in dramatic fashion at No. 4 with an 11-9 win in a super-breaker. Jess Hansen won in straight sets at No. 5 (6-0, 6-3). Mckimm also won in the super-breaker at No. 6.
Larson was happy with the win, and feels the Johnnies can now control their destiny with regard to playoffs.
“Our future is now in our hands,” Larson said.
The Johnnies have a lot to look forward to, and the new on-campus facility is at the top of the list. The Johnnies spent the first half of the season playing in St. Joseph, but will be on campus for the second half.
This upgrade should help the program in several ways; the Johnnies hope to have better attendance at matches and also feel the new courts will help them in recruiting.
They already have several recruits coming next fall, and Larson feels the courts will give the Johnnies a big boost when it comes to MIAC recruiting battles for years to come.
“We’re up there now when it comes to recruiting and the new courts are a big part of that,” Larson said.
The Johnnies sit at 2-10 overall this season, with 1-3 record in MIAC play. The team has no seniors and Larson is the only junior on the roster. The lack of experience has been tough to deal with, but the team is hoping that the combination of the new courts and more match experience will turn the tide.
Larson feels the Johnnies will have a better second half of the season because of the experience that comes with more matches.
“We have a lot of freshman who have gained valuable experience so far this year,” Larson said.
Punnoose also feels the Johnnies are going play much better in the second half.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and we have to play every match the rest of the way really well to do that,” Punnoose said.
The Johnnies will be in action next when they host Bethel at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8. The match will be the second of seven straight home matches for the Johnnies at their new facility.