It’s been a bit of a strange week. Well honestly the week before spring break is always a bit strange. With a two-week break the professors at Whitman often pile on the work – lots of mid-terms, papers, and tests. Also, without fail, seems this is the week when guys' immune systems break down. With the long hours of studying and lack of sleep, it seems like members of the team always get sick. In fact, this week many on the team did get sick and/or had to miss practice because of academic pressures. After two decades of coaching I finally learned my lesson about spring break. Last year we started off spring break trip playing in the StagHen tournament. This amazing tournament typically attracts some of the top teams in D3 tennis. However, the event starts Friday morning which means leaving Thursday morning. Also academically everyone has to cram one of the hardest weeks of the year into a couple days. Plus, last year we had flight issues with Delta and we ended up having to drive part of the team to Boise, ID to take an early morning flight to join the rest of the team in Los Angeles. As if that wasn’t enough we also encounter record high temps in Southern California. With the tough academic week, short week, bad travel, and high temps it’s no wonder we struggled in our first matches of spring break. We ended up falling to two top 10 teams in brutal physical matches – Trinity 3-6 and Kenyon 4-5. Plus, sandwiched between those two matches we lost to Case in a match where I had to pull 4 of the top 6 players due to heat exhaustion.
This year I took a different approach to spring break. We limited the time training on court and reduced the physical conditioning load. I will say it’s nice to have a motivated team that really wants to play and train – it’s not an issue to get them to play! Also leading up to the weekend I let it be known my priority was to play the lower guys on the roster against conference opponents Willamette/Linfield. We had already defeated both of these teams 9-0 and I didn’t feel it would do any good playing the top guys. The past month has been incredible competition for the team – we have played Division 1 teams Idaho and Seattle U, we played 2 of the top teams in the conference, and we recently hosted two good D3 teams in Cal Lu and Swarthmore. So this was a great opportunity for the guys outside the top 6 to play meaningful matches.
What can I say - the lower guys were ready to play and came out on fire! In fact, we didn’t drop a set the entire weekend! Nice effort from everyone defeating Willamette, Spokane CC, and Linfield 9-0 within 24 hours! I also feel that the effort from the non-starters is going to pay big dividends during spring break. The top guys on the team got a chance to rest, recover from various ailments, and practice/play sets on their own over the weekend. Unlike last year we should be rested heading into a big week of matches.
We have a great week of opportunities ahead of us. We start our California trip against #9 Bowdoin (at CMS), Thursday we take on defending national champions CMS, Fri off, Saturday #14 Redlands and we wrap up Sunday against #21 Tufts (we are currently #17).