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Zeilstra steps up at second singles
By Bruce VanBaren

Marcus ZeilstraA nagging shoulder injury reduced senior No. 1 singles player Ricky Tilton to an underhand server much of the season, inflating the pressure that fell on the shoulders of No. 2 singles player Marcus Zeilstra.

Despite that added weight, the Timothy Christian (Elmhurst, Ill.) graduate delivered. Zeilstra went 15-2 individually in the No. 2 spot despite Calvin’s grueling schedule against 10 opponents ranked in the top 25 in the country. His impressive mark also included a 4-1 record in MIAA conference play, a schedule that included three of those ranked opponents.

“He’s been a really good No. 2 player for us this year,” said Coach John Ross. “He’s a hard-working kid that comes to matches and competes. The neatest thing is he always wants to work hard, and he always has a good time doing it. He’s a real fun person to be around and makes it a fun atmosphere in practice.”

“Calvin’s program has a lot to offer,” Zeilstra said. “It challenges me in several ways, primarily with a tough schedule that coach provides for us. He gets a lot of tough teams on our schedule so we always have tough competition, which in turn makes you better.”

Zeilstra garnered All-MIAA honors for the third straight year, landing a spot on the All-MIAA first team for the second straight year.

“It definitely feels good,” he said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment for the work I’ve put in the past years, and it’s definitely encouraging. I’ve definitely been improving from year to year.”

Calvin’s probable No. 1 singles player next year, Zeilstra filled in for the injured Tilton at times, posting a 5-1 record as the Knights’ No. 1.

“He’s a great teammate, but he hasn’t had to be a leader yet,” Ross said. “Next year he’s going to need to be a leader, and he’ll step up and do a great job for us; I’m very confident in that. He’s going to be a great leader for us and a great No. 1.”

Zeilstra also stepped up at No. 2 doubles this season, despite midseason musical chairs among the doubles teams. Zeilstra began the season with Tilton, a combination that posted a 17-6 record overall and a 4-2 mark in the MIAA a year prior, but he ended the year winning 10 of 12 matches with Steve DeMaagd.

Zeilstra and DeMaagd finished with a 10-2 record and a 4-1 conference mark, ranked just outside the top 10 in the central region. Ross is convinced the tandem has a great shot at making the NCAA tournament next, which would mean being ranked in the top eight in the central region.

But despite the individual accolades and the outstanding outlook for next season, Zeilstra and the Knights felt they missed an opportunity to cripple the now 70-year reign of Kalamazoo atop the MIAA throne. Calvin finished in second place with a 5-1 record in the regular season and also took second to the Hornets in the conference tournament.

“Absolutely we were disappointed,” Zeilstra said. “Coming into the season it’s always a goal to win the conference. When we had a great show at the league title like we did and then one of our best players is injured and we lose, it really puts a damper on what we could have done.”

“I think we did miss an opportunity,” Ross said. “This Kalamazoo team was not as good as it was a year ago. But with Tilton’s health conditions, we did about as well as we could have. If Tilton was healthy, we beat them.”

Calvin fell 6-3 in the conference tournament match against Kalamazoo and dropped the regular season match 7-2 to the Hornets. But if anything, this year’s narrow loss in the conference only made Zeilstra hungrier for Calvin’s first league title.

“I think we can do it,” he said. “That’s probably one of my top goals because it’s my last chance to beat them. I think if the whole team works hard this summer, we could beat them.”

The Hornets will go for their 71st straight conference title next year; Calvin will be looking for its first title and second NCAA berth in three years.