The men’s tennis team (8-0) is ranked second in the nation after an undefeated run in California over Spring Break, including a 7-2 victory against then-No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) (7-2) during the Stag-Hen Invitational.
The team’s success comes after ending its 2017 season in a disappointing 5-2 loss in the NCAA Division III semifinals to eventual champions Emory University.
“Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a team is to lose a match like that. We lost a heartbreaking match against Emory,” captain Gill Roddy ’18 said. “It definitely gave us serious motivation to work with this off-season.”
The motivation paid off, as the Polar Bears not only beat CMS, who they lost to in the tournament finals last year, but also various others top-ten teams, including No. 5 University of Chicago.
In order to succeed, the team went into the tournament well-prepared and with high expectations after three weeks of focused practice and intense off-season training.
“We wanted to feel like we were confident and … ready to compete and have fun out there. I think we definitely succeeded in doing that,” said captain Luke Tercek ’18. “We played a ton of good teams out there. We were focused on things we can control like good energy and good body language, good competition.”
Looking towards the season, the Polar Bears are looking to use the confidence built in California to propel them forwards.
“Coming back [from California], it gives us confidence to play the NESCAC matches. It’s a little different because the first couple of matches will be inside [rather than outside like over spring break], but it sets us up well for the rest of the season,” captain Kyle Wolfe ’18 said.
Despite this, the team is not overly concerned with the rankings this early in the season.
“It’s definitely nice [to be ranked second], but as we see a lot of years, there are some teams that are really tough in March and April who peak during that time, and that’s not a team we want to be,” Roddy said. “It’s nice to be high in the rankings, and that is a reflection of the hard work we put in in California.”
The team is primarily focused on short-term goals such as doing well throughout the regular season and NESCAC matches instead of concentrating on larger goals.
One of the team’s long term goals, however, is to peak in May.
“A long-term goal is to keep improving and playing our best tennis and peaking in May. Our goal is stay around there [in the rankings] and not be one of those teams who fall out after their first month or two of the season,” Roddy said.
The first years have also played a key role in motivating and improving the team. The team has 14 members, which is the largest it has been in the last four years. The size increase has had a positive effect.
“A huge impact [first years have had on the team] is the energy they bring during the matches. It helps a lot to have individual guys watching each of the courts,” Tercek said. “They push all of us to get better every single day in practice.”
“Some of the guys who weren’t playing were some of the most important pieces to our success in terms of being loud, making noise, being really invested in the matches and making us feel like we have 50 guys on our team when we really have 14,” Roddy said.
The Polar Bears will face MIT this weekend. The team is focused on No. 21 MIT due to their historical strength.
“MIT is a team that we’ve played every year that I’ve been at Bowdoin, and they are one of the most talented teams in the country, so we consider that a very dangerous match,” Roddy said. “They could come out and beat us any given day. For this weekend, our focus is just trying to keep our laser-like focus we had in California and come out with two wins.”
The Polar Bears will travel to face off against MIT on Friday at 3 p.m., followed by their first NESCAC game against Connecticut College at 2 p.m. next day.