It was a tough one to swallow for the 27th ranked Big Red Men’s tennis team, as they lost a 5-4 nail biter that came down to the last singles match versus Earlham. And while this loss is damaging, the play was impressive considering what the mighty Big Red have lost leading up to this season.

“We lost four starting seniors from last year who all were huge contributors. The play from Tommy Cawood, Tim Martin, Matt McErlean, and Tyler Cempre not only had a generous number of wins between them, but they were also a source of phenomenal leadership for our team. We understand that we are a young team, and to perform at a comparable level to last year is going to be a challenging task” said sophomore Grant Veltman.

“However, last year we were an extremely deep team, with non-starters on our team that would have easily been able to step in a perform at any given time. With this depth carrying over, we have been able to reload better than some might have predicted” added Veltman.

And reload they did, as they battled admirably against a tough Earlham in an early season match. The tag team of junior Juan Guerra and Veltman squashed their doubles opponents, 8-4. Soon after, the Big Red duo of sophomore Casey Campre and junior Andrew Marczak

got the same result, winning 8-3. Veltman explained that the key to these crucial wins was due to a new philosophy and a lot of hard work. “In the week leading up to the match, we adopted a variation of the “I” formation when serving. This has proven to be effective in setting up the net player will putaway volleys, preventing the returner from becoming comfortable, and taking pressure off of the server to constantly come up with first volleys. We did a great job holding serve and returned well enough to come up with two breaks. Maintaining a strong focus all the way through was crucial as well” said Veltman. And although the Big Red double’s performance was exceptional, it was their play in the singles that was the major cloud that hovered over their first loss of the season. Denison went 2-4 in total singles victories versus Earlham, including sustaining two close heartbreakers. The first close loss was with junior Andrew Marczak, who lost his last set, 7-2. The other one was from freshman Jackson O’Gorman Bean who also took his opponent to three sets. Yet, the victory just slipped through, losing the last set, 7-6.

“We had some great fights in the singles that didn’t go our way, but I think, as a team, experiencing this loss will facilitate a continued strong motivation in practice and in future matches” Veltman added.

The team is focused to make sure this loss does not loom over them for a duration during the season, and this focus is coming from young and enthusiastic leaders on the squad.

“On a collective scale, there has been great efforts by all over our players to express leadership. I think we are in the process of $nding our own identity as team. Being a young team with only one senior, it’s something we will need to continue to do” Veltman expressed. With the rest of the season looming, the Big Red are motivated to justify their national ranking.

“In order to be as prepared as possible, we will continue to apply the most intense of efforts in our practices.” Veltman said. Their next match is away at the University of Chicago, Feb. 24, 9 a.m.