tennis leaps up the standings
By Jeff Febus
A youthful Calvin women’s tennis team took a giant step forward this spring as it put itself in position to contend for its first MIAA title in 23 years.
When the final MIAA standings were complete, the Knights were in third place, but the fact that Calvin was in contention for the league crown heading into the conference championships was indeed significant.
During the MIAA dual match season, Calvin clinched a share of first place with a thrilling 5-4 upset victory at 2002 MIAA champion St. Mary’s. Previously unbeaten in MIAA dual-match action, St. Mary’s finished in a three-way tie for first place in the MIAA dual standings with Calvin and Albion.
Calvin’s first-place finish in the MIAA dual match standings was the first for the Knights since 1981.
Under the leadership of head coach Jerry Bergsma, Calvin closed out the dual match season with seven straight victories including five straight in MIAA competition. Three of Calvin’s last four MIAA victories were by a 5-4 score as the Knights defeated Kalamazoo, Hope and St. Mary’s by a single point over the final two weeks of the season. The Calvin roster was without a senior and consisted of four freshmen, three sophomores and a junior.
“As our season went along, our team started to find ways to win,” said Bergsma. “It wasn’t one individual. It was contributions from people all the way through the lineup.”
Although Calvin had defeated Kalamazoo and Hope in recent seasons, it had been some time since the Knights had gained a win against St. Mary’s, making the victory over the Belles extra special. “The victory at St. Mary’s was most unexpected but also a pleasant surprise,” said Bergsma. “Our players rallied around each other in that match, and the team spirit was a big reason why we won that match.”
At the MIAA championship, Calvin took fifth with a team score of 58.5 points to place third in the overall league standings. St. Mary’s captured the overall team crown as the Belles finished one point ahead (79.5-78.5) of Albion at the MIAA Championships in the closest finish in MIAA women’s tennis history.
“The talent in the MIAA has always been good, but the difference this year was that more teams had significant depth and that made for a very exciting conference race,” said Bergsma. “With so many teams battling it out, it opened the door for some new possibilities.”
Calvin finished its overall dual match season with a 14-4 overall record, one short of matching the Calvin single-season record.
“The thing that stood out for me this year was the way our players supported one another,” said Bergsma. “Tennis can be a game of individual responsibility, but this group really grasped the team concept. Team unity like that is a real joy to see as a coach.”
Depth was also a key factor throughout the year as six players produced winning records in singles play. Leading the team in singles victories were freshmen Kari Lipinski and Allyson Logan. Logan was 18-3 at No. 4 singles while Lipinski was 16-3 at No. 5 singles.
Without a senior in its lineup this year, the team appears to have a bright future. “We’re optimistic for next year, but the league will again be very tough,” he said. “One of the big reasons why our team took a step forward this season was the improvement our sophomore players made from their freshmen year. If our current freshmen can do the same thing next year, we could take another step forward.”
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