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Men’s tennis begins optimistic rebuild

September 7, 2018

Ann Basu
Focus under Pressure Current Singles National Champion Grant Urken '19 competes in the spring of 2018.

In the 2017-18 season, the men’s tennis team ranked third in the nation and placed second at the NCAA championship. This year, the team’s roster gained two first years but graduated three standout players. Nonetheless, captains Jerry Jiang ’19 and Grant Urken ’19 are enthusiastic about their prospects for the upcoming year.

“Tennis is different because we have two seasons, so [the first years] have a lot of time to adjust in the fall, but there is also time to prove themselves early on,” Jiang said. “They’ve done a good job so far. We’re happy for their addition [and] we’re looking forward to seeing what more they can bring to the table.”

This year, there are more matches scheduled for the fall season, which offers more chances for the new and returning players to gain match experience. Bowdoin will participate in four tournaments against New England colleges before NESCAC season officially begins in the spring.

“There are more opportunities for the younger guys to practice and experience other schools’ levels as well as [get] good preparation,” said Jiang. “Also, I think to have a lot of matches under their belts is important. When the spring starts—when the dual match situation starts—it’ll be good preparation for them as well.”

While the tennis team is small in comparison to other teams at Bowdoin, it prides itself tremendously on its culture of dedication, hard work and diligence.

“One of the things we look for is, especially in bringing in guys, is how well we think they will integrate into the culture,” said Urken. “It’s kind of hard to verbalize but I think something we pride ourselves [on] is our dedication to the sport and the hard work we each put in. I think we each try to do our jobs and do it well. I think that means coming to practice on time—not only showing up, but also pushing each other to get to a better level.”

During the fall, the team focuses heavily on conditioning and strengthening team dynamics in preparation for the spring season. As runner-ups in the 2018 NCAA Division III Championship, the men are now building upon the lessons that almost made them national champions.

“We know what it takes to get there. The season is [a] very long period of time and it expands from the fall,” Urken said. “From an endurance standpoint and a mentality standpoint, we have a sense of what we need to put in.”

Three important players—Kyle Wolfe ’18, Luke Tercek ’18 and Gil Roddy ’18—graduated last year, and their departure poses a new challenge for the team to overcome. On the court, all three hold Bowdoin records for most doubles wins in a single season, and Roddy and Wolfe are on the leaderboard for most career singles wins, coming in No. 3 and No. 9, respectively. Off the court, the three laid the foundation for the team culture.

“We lost three key guys that have been super, super important to building that culture we have been talking about from a playing level and an energy level, so I think that’s a huge hit to our team,” said Urken.

Overall, both captains are very excited not only to play, but also to enjoy their final year. It is easy to get caught up on the winning aspect and forget to enjoy the experience of the game.

“I think it’s really important to pass [our culture] onto the younger guys and keep it going in the future as well,” Jiang said. “But at the same time, trying to have fun because we are seniors and we really enjoy being on this team. We couldn’t ask for a better team.”

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