The undefeated men’s tennis team put on a show for the Polar Bears in attendance last weekend as it dismantled Hamilton (4-8 overall, 0-3 NESCAC) and powerhouse No. 14 Amherst (12-5 overall, 3-2 NESCAC) in its home openers. The team swept both matches 9-0, did not lose a set in either and is now ranked second nationally with three weeks left in the regular season. The Polar Bears will hope to continue their stellar play this weekend when they take on No. 23 Brandeis today at 3 p.m and No. 4 Middlebury on Sunday. Both of this weekend’s matches are away. 

While the victory against a Hamilton team that has yet to win a set in NESCAC play this season was expected, the results against Amherst, who has won two national championships in the past five years, were more up in the air. Still, the win against the Continentals was paramount for the Polar Bears as it helped get them in the right mindset for the next day’s match.
“I knew we were going to have a good result [against Amherst], or at least play our best, because of our match the day before against Hamilton,” said senior captain Chase Savage. 

“Hamilton is the bottom of our conference. They’re by no means a team that should beat us, and I feel pretty confident saying that,” Savage continued. “But what guys did in that match was be really focused, really disciplined, take nothing for granted and just go out there and do their job. And that has been why we’ve been successful this year.”  

In the contest against Amherst, the Polar Bears stayed disciplined early on in the match as Luke Tercek ’18 and senior captain Luke Trinka jumped out of the gate to an 8-2 win in first doubles. Kyle Wolfe ’18 and Jerry Jiang ’19 quickly followed suit with an 8-4 win of their own, as Savage and Gil Roddy ’18 wrapped up the doubles in a hard-fought 9-8 victory in third doubles. Things weren’t as dramatic in the singles matches with all 12 sets going Bowdoin’s way.

While the Polar Bears were impressed with themselves after the shutout win, they are most excited looking forward, as they believe their potential has yet to be reached.

“I don’t think anyone on our team expected it to be 9-0. We know how good we are, but we also know we’re playing a top-10 team,” said Savage.

“The scary thing about the group is that after some of these really great wins, there are specific things that we can all do to get better. So in many ways, it’s a group that still has a lot of room for improvement,” added Trinka.

This year’s team is also a fairly young one—captains Savage and Trinka are the only two upperclassmen on the team—which makes the win against Amherst, who only lost three seniors from last year’s Elite Eight team, even more impressive. Although they are still developing, the Polar Bears credit most of their success to the focus and preparation they are putting into their matches.

“Guys have been very intentional in their preparation in ways that differ from seasons past,” said Trinka. “People were really thinking out loud about their matchups for the coming weekend. [They are] very deliberate about strategizing within practices against teammates just to try to replicate what we would be up against on Sunday.”

Sunday’s match against Middlebury carries extra weight as Bowdoin hopes to avenge last season’s losses to the Panthers both in the NESCAC tournament and in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. The team has not beaten both Amherst and Middlebury in a single regular season in 15 years, and playing on the Panthers’ home court adds an extra obstacle to the matchup.

“To be honest, Middlebury is one of the toughest places to play, and it has as much to do with their fans on the side of the court as it does the players on the court,” said Savage. “They like to make it an intimate atmosphere—their fans like to get in your face a little bit, which is something unusual for a tennis match, and so they try to take you out of their game. In years past, we’ve had guys who’ve gotten taken out of their game, and I feel like with this year’s team, that’s not going to be the case.”

The team will hope to stay undefeated against the Judges and the Panthers.
“I think [our court conduct] has slowly started to change to a team that’s got a little bit more of an edge to it than before,” Savage said. “We walk a very smart line with it...there’s a bit of a different competitive fire that we bring to some of these matches than we have in years prior.”