This past weekend, the men’s tennis team came back strong at the Division III International Tennis Association (ITA) tournament after two years without formal competition. For the first time in two decades, Bowdoin hosted the tournament, which gave the majority of the team its first chance to compete in collegiate-level matches.
To prepare for the tournament, the team practiced as much as possible and read “What Drives Winning” by Brett Ledbetter, which focuses on how to handle adversity on the court.
Captain Oscar Yang ’22, the only senior on the team, expressed that this type of work off the court had a positive impact on the team’s dynamic.
“I was really able to see how some of my [other teammates] were able to integrate a lot of the things that we read in the book into this week, even though it’s [their] first college tournament,” Yang said. “So that was really amazing to see.”
Though the spread of COVID-19 is more manageable than it was last fall, when the tournament was originally set to occur, pandemic restrictions and regulations still impacted the event.
Unvaccinated players from all institutions were required to take a COVID-19 antigen test before departing their home institution and again on each day of competition. In addition, capacity for spectators, who were required to be vaccinated, was reduced to 40 percent because the tournament was held indoors due to rain.
Regardless of the lingering COVID-19 restrictions, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan acknowledged the team’s home court advantage.
“It’s a great benefit for the students who are members of our teams to be able to play on their home courts and to not have to travel. So after many years of not hosting the event, we were excited about the opportunity to do that,” Ryan said.
Despite being forced to move their matches indoors due to rainfall, Yang explained that the team led by example in following the mask mandate.
“[Following COVID-19 protocols] is just something that we pride our team on; just doing the little things right and not complaining and not making excuses,” Yang said.
In addition to remaining unified in the face of COVID-19, the team’s eight-person roster allowed it to grow closer after a long time apart due to the pandemic.
“Because the team is so small, it makes it really easy for me to connect with each person on an individual level,” Yang said. “I’m really excited to see what happens this year.”
Reid Staples ’24 said that he felt support from the larger Bowdoin community when both he and teammate Tristan Bradley ’24 won their singles matches side-by-side.
“[The rest of] the [men’s] team and the women’s team showed up and some other people [came] to support us. The atmosphere was great,” Staples said. “The home environment really helps.”
Staples and Bradley both advanced to the singles semi-final matches on Saturday.
Commitment from each of the players and campus and community-wide support were crucial to the team’s success since the tournament demanded 14-hour days and little time for completing schoolwork or socializing.
“The boys on the team did well just focusing on tennis and really eliminating all those distractions,” Yang said.
Staples emphasized that this experience was critical for developing a high level of play after going almost two years without facing another college team.
“It was really good to see the level [at which we can play] overall for the first time against other schools and to see where the other teams are [with their level of play],” Staples said.
Staples also emphasized that the team dynamic Bowdoin creates is like no other.
“The team culture we have [at Bowdoin] is really assuring,” Staples said. “I’m really glad to be in the right place.”