Tennis thrives in coastal sun

Katie Wieser, Director of Print

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The Case Western Reserve University tennis teams put the focus on team building over their spring break trips spanning from South Carolina to California during the week of the academic hiatus. The men’s team spent four days in Hilton Head, S.C. while the women’s team headed to southern California for a three-day, three match event. The men ended the week with five wins and a loss on the outdoor courts, while the ladies dropped two to nationally-ranked opponents and won one match during their trip.

The No. 26 women’s team was looking to gain more experience versus top-ranked competition. They started their week against Bowdoin College, who currently hold the No. 7 rank nationally. The Spartans opened strong with a 2-1 record after the doubles portion of play. The teams of Sara Zargham and Marianne Bonanno and Surya Khadilkar and Sarah Berchuck beat out their opponents with scores of 8-6. However, the Spartans were no match for the singles play of the tennis powerhouse, falling 1-5 on the day.

The second day brought some relief to the Spartan team as they won over University Athletics Association opponent University of Rochester. The doubles teams, once again, helped the team get things going with a three-match sweep of the opposition. The ladies also took five of six singles matches. However, the women were unable to find success in the final day of play as they fell to No. 5 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

The team of Khadilkar/ Berchuck finished their successful weekend with another victory. They were joined in the winners’ circle with the team of Taylor Sweeney and Michelle Djohan. Unfortunately, the team was felled by singles play once more, dropping five of six matches.

Coach Kirsten Gambrell was disappointed with the overall record following the trip, but felt encouraged with the level of doubles play and the valuable team experiences gleaned during the course of the three matches. “Getting two road trips will really prepare us for later in the season,” said Gambrell. “I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to push through and beat the teams that are ranked closer to us.” The ladies will get their chance playing against the No. 20 team and another top-ten team in Virginia at the end of March.

Gambrell was also encouraged by the teamwork shown over the trip. “Over this spring break trip, our team chemistry really raised a notch. We were close before but I feel like the team really gelled.”

The men’s team started their trip with the goal of team camaraderie in mind. Coach Todd Wojtkowski was looking to gain experience playing outdoors before beginning to face off against regional and conference opponents starting next week.

The team played a grueling schedule of six matches in four days starting against Tiffin University on Sunday, March 9 . The Tiffin team is a Division II school, but gave the Spartans no challenge as they swept the competition 9-0. Five of the players won both their singles and doubles matches including Christopher Krimbill, John Healey, Derek Reinbold, Will Drougas and James Fojtasek.

The men went on in day two to face off against Division I opponent George Mason and fellow Division III team Ohio Wesleyan. The team started out strong in doubles play versus George Mason. The teams of Krimbill/Eric Klawitter and Healey/Drougas both won their doubles matches, earning the team the doubles point for the competition. Krimbill won his fourth straight match in singles, but that was the only bright spot for the Spartans as they fell 5-2. The second match of the day got the team back to their winning ways as the Case men took all three doubles matches as well as five of the six singles in straight sets.

The team started their second day of doubleheader play against Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. The morning matches featured the team’s less-featured players, who proved to be more than ready to compete, losing only two games the entire day. The top-ranked players faced off against Wittenberg University and brought in another 9-0 sweep, not dropping a set all day.

Play on day three was postponed due to weather before things were able to get started with a 2-1 victory over Bridgewater College in doubles play. Unfortunately, the men were unable to finish out the day as weather ended three matches before they were able to be completed. However, the Spartans were determined to be the winners with three victories over the Bridgewater team. Klawitter and Fojtasek both were 2-0 on the day.

The trip of the season was a success in terms of the final record as well as team development. “The first road trip of the season is the first opportunity to get to know each other and really bond as a team. Home meets aren’t the best for team building….but on the road you’re in a van together for hours then staying overnight at a hotel. It was a good chance to get closer as a team,” said Wojtkowski.

The trip also helps the team refocus on the new practices and expectations that come with switching to outdoor courts. The Spartans will look to capitalize on their increased familiarity as they head to Emory University in Georgia on March 28. The team will once again be taking their vans on the road with their eyes on raising their win total and No. 8 ranking outdoors.