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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tennis teams off to promising starts for this season

<old beginning to set in and the snow starting to pile up, Carleton fans are fixated on indoor sports pastimes like basketball, swimming and diving and the indoor variant of track and field. Although snow covers the Pat Lamb Tennis Courts, the Carleton men’s and women’s tennis seasons are kicking off at the end of January, as both squads take advantage of indoor venues to get an early start on their quest to win the MIAC.

The Carleton men’s side enters the season ranked 37th nationally, good for 8th in the central region. They are a team on the rise, leaving captain Aaron Goodman ’19 “proud” of his team’s growth, rising from outside the regional top ten three years ago, to their current position and national ranking.

Individually, Carleton is led by all-American Leo Vithoontien ’21, who is ranked third in the region in singles play. Vithoontien also partners with Jordon O’Kelly in the 5th ranked doubles team in the region. The Knights also find strength in Goodman and co-captain Jordon O’Kelly ’19, both of whom have been been solid four year contributors for the Knights.

Despite graduating Kevin Mei ’18, Carleton’s number two singles player, the Knights possess the depth to fill the void. Goodman views Xander Zuczek ’21, as a player “ready to make a huge impact” in singles play. Goodman also sings the praises of William Walsh and Xander Roti, two “solid” players who will provide further depth for the Knights.

Carleton was denied the MIAC title last season by an elite Gustavus team, the winners of the last eight conference titles. When asked how the Knights can break the Gustie streak, Goodman tapped the doubles matches as an area where the Knights “did really well last year” and possess the potential to “get even better.” Since the doubles precede the singles in dual match play, Goodman believes winning these matches is “important to get off on the right foot” as winning “two or three” of the three doubles matches is vital in overcoming a strong Gustie roster.

Goodman also praised head coach Stephan Zweifel’s ability to “keep [things] really loose” amidst the pressures of varsity athletics. Coach Zweifel “always has a joke to crack,” helping the team avoid any additional stress inherent in the high pressure and exacting tennis environment. Goodman lauds Coach Zweifel as the “best team manager [he’s] ever seen,” an essential trait when trying to schedule matches and develop players in cold and wet Minnesota.

The Knights began their season last Saturday with a pair of dominant 9-0 sweeps against Saint Mary’s and UW-La Crosse, with William Walsh ’22 leading the way with three wins on the day. The next day, the Knights fell to Division I opponent North Dakota, with Sahil Chhugani notching the lone win of the match for Carleton. The squad will look to rebound this Sunday, when they travel to Concordia College-Moorhead.

The Carleton women’s team begins the season ranked 31st nationally, and are buoyed by Kristina Conrad ’19 and Madeline Prins ’20 in the 22nd nationally ranked doubles pair, placing them 6th in the region, as well as by Sonya Romanenko ’22, the #16 ranked singles player in the region.

Prins praised the depth of the Knights roster as a point of strength, praising Coach Luciano Battaglini’s ability to “bring in quite a bit of talent” an important factor in their strength in this area. Prins pointed to Romanenko and Jeanny Zhang ’22 as players likely to join the singles lineup, while also praising the strength of Yelena Hallman ’22 and Taylor Thulson ’22, two “strong and solid” recruits.

Prins stressed the importance of this depth in winning matches, as it enables the Knights to avoid the “drop off” in quality after the first few singles players that permeates some rosters. Since the requisite 5 out of 9 wins to secure victory count the same whether it’s the sixth ranked or first ranked players, the Knights should be able to leverage their depth to defeat more top-heavy opponents.

The leadership of Conrad, the lone senior on the squad, is essential to the Knights’ success, and Prins believes that Conrad has been “stepping up her game” this season in her increased role. “She’s doing it all” as both a captain and highly seeded player in the Knights lineup, said Prins, who herself will also take on a leadership role as the only other upperclassman on the Knights roster.

Head coach Luciano Battaglini is at the helm for the Knights. A former Brazilian professional, Coach “Luch,” as he’s affectionately called, possesses a great deal of experience as a player and a coach, allowing him to “bring a lot of knowledge about the game that other coaches can lack” to the table for the Knights. Battaglini’s strategic approach to the game fits well into the “problem solving” mindset of Carleton students and his attention to intelligent shot-making “fits Carleton’s style very well,” catering to the academic and inquisitive nature of our student body.

The Knights started off the season with a tough 8-1 loss to the University of North Dakota, a Division I opponent, with Zhang providing a 6-4, 6-4 win from the third singles spot. The Knights will look for redemption when they take on MIAC foe Concordia College-Moorhead this Saturday away at Moorhead.

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