Men’s tennis swings into season on years of experience

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by Laura Dillavou

With an experienced group of competitors, the Simpson men’stennis team is ready to take on the conference’s best.

The men have a solid lineup of returning varsity players, mostof whom have been playing together for their entire collegecareer.

“The top six have been around for a few years. Ever since mysophomore year, I have been playing with these guys. We know eachother and play well together,” said senior captain SamSkalland.

Skalland, who plays No. 2 singles, is looking to end his yearson the tennis team with a high note.

“I want to have a winning record in both singles and doubles. Ithink the team can really push and go well this year. We seem to bereally strong this year, and that’s a good feeling,” he said.

Team chemistry is one the things that might bring this year’sroster to the top.

“These are great guys. It’s a very talented team and we’repretty deep this year. Everyone has varsity experience which maylead to us pulling some upsets over the competitors,” said juniorAndy Merrill.

In the past, the Storm has taken a fourth place finish in theconference, right behind close competitor Central. They will facethe Dutchmen in upcoming weeks at home tournaments.

“I really think the team can push for third in the conference.The matches with Wartburg and Central will be tough, but I think wecan get past them. The potential is there, we just have to followthrough,” said Skalland.

One of the things that may help the Storm with a victory istheir familiarity with indoor courts.

“Most of our home matches are in the next couple weeks and,seeing as the weather is inclement for outdoor sports, we will beplaying in the gym. There are different elements with indoortennis. The surface is faster, especially with serving andvolleying. It needs different coaching techniques and skills,” saidhead coach Bob Nutgrass.

Nutgrass, who has coached the both men’s and women’s tennis forthe past seven years, is optimistic about the experienced team thathe has underneath him for the spring season.

“These guys know the teams they are playing and that will leadus to more victories, especially when we can stay in the ballparkwith them. Of course, some teams are just way out of there, likeCoe and Luther. They usually dominate,” Nutgrass said.

This year, Nutgrass is looking to junior Luc Mbenoun, who placedfourth in the conference last year to lead the team in wins, aswell as senior Garrett Piklapp to rack up wins in doublescompetition.

“Mbenoun and Piklapp play at No. 1 doubles and we really hopethat they can pick up their serving and volleying to gain somevaluable wins. Cory Veen and Dave Venables also have some goodexperience in singles and will pull in wins for us in that lineup,”said Nutgrass. “I’m very optimistic about this season. I think wecan have a bunch of guys finish high in the conference this year.It is a matter of stepping up and winning the matches we need towin,” said Merrill.

With a seasoned lineup and strong skills, the Storm may juststep up into a well-deserved third place conference finish.

“We are just trying to win as many matches as possible. Rightnow we are 4-3, so that is a good start. Each time we go out there,we set a goal to improve from the last time. That’s the way welearn and get better,” said Nutgrass.