Unseeded Luke Trinka ’16 busted open the bracket of the USTA/ITA Men’s Tennis Regional Championship last weekend as he played his way to six wins in three days, bringing Bowdoin the tournament’s championship trophy for the first time in program history. Trinka, who faced three ranked opponents on his run to the title, won four of his matches in straight sets. He overcame a 3-6 first set loss to fourth-seeded Matt Micheli of Williams to win nine sets in a row before dropping one in the final to Williams’ unseeded Conrad Harron. Harron and Trinka have known each other since they were 16, and have played together often over the summer in their native Chicago.
Trinka’s victory earned him a place at the Small College Championships in Fort Myers, Fla. where he will compete against junior college, DII and DIII athletes from across the country.
Because tournament seeding is based on previous collegiate success, Trinka was never a serious consideration for a seed, as he did not play singles for the College as a first year. He did, however, partner with Chase Savage ’16 to form a doubles team that finished the spring season undefeated.
Trinka’s remarkable performance last weekend did not come as a shock to his team.
“Guys knew how well he was playing,” Coach Conor Smith said. “They were saying, you know, ‘Luke’s hot right now. He’s not someone you want to play.’”
“He beat four of the top guys in the NESCAC,” Savage said. “Not just beat, but rolled through some of them.”
Smith believes that a large part of Trinka’s success came from his drive to crack the singles line-up as a sophomore, a fact that Trinka acknowledges.
“My first year was kind of disappointing,” he said. “I came in expecting to play, but for whatever reason, I didn’t enjoy the same type of success [as in high school].”
This was not a case of a player underestimating the adjustment to the college game. Trinka, whose parents played collegiate tennis at DI schools, saw many DI offers himself, but turned them down to look for a school that prioritized academics. He is a seasoned player who has played tournaments throughout the Midwest. He regularly competes against DI players.
“Match count is important at this level,” Trinka said. “I want to play those competitive matches that you can’t replicate in practice.”
Still, Trinka could not crack the singles line-up, though Coach Smith suggested that the depth of the team played a part in that.
“I felt that I could switch our four, five and six [singles players] with our seven, eight and nine and be as just as confident,” said Smith.
That depth remains largely intact this season as the team lost only one starter to graduation.
“I fully expect Luke to compete for that spot,” Savage said. “It would be hard to say the best player in New England isn’t in the starting line-up.”
There is a long layover between the end of the fall season and the beginning of the spring—about as much time as the team gets off for the summer. Trinka acknowledges that maintaining his momentum will be a challenge.
“It’s a long time to go matchless,” he said. “A lot of forethought has to go into how you’re going to train because you can train very inefficiently.”
Even if Trinka grabs that open singles spot, he and Savage will almost certainly take the court as a doubles team again. The pair lost in the finals of the abbreviated fall season’s first tournament and lost again in the first round of the ITA, though Savage said that even in that match, their chemistry had noticeably improved.
“He can put things in perspective,” Savage said. “He doesn’t get caught up. That’s all you can ask of a guy.”
Trinka will miss the last tournament of the fall season to play in Florida. He is keeping that in perspective as well.
“It’s a pressureless situation,” he said. “I want to go down and do well, but if I don’t it’s still another experience.”
The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.