The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

Tennis hopes to learn from tough losses

Tyler Morrill

Sports editor

Linfield’s men’s and women’s tennis teams have struggled out of the gate.

The men lost their first four matches and the women lost their first two. But, both have formidable squads to fight for Northwest Conference titles.

Both teams think the strong preseason competition will help the squads as they prepare for more challenging matches ahead.

The women’s team defeated Willamette University, 8-1, giving it a second win and pushing their overall record to 2-2, 2-0, in NWC.

The men got their first win of the season when they beat University of Puget Sound, 8-1, Feb. 16.

“It feels good to win that first one,” senior Wes Gabrielson said. “We always play the tough teams right away. Obviously, it’s going to help us play better the rest of the year. Everyone’s more confident after that.”

The women earned their first win of the year hosting UPS Feb. 16. They swept the Loggers, 9-0, in a strong home showing. All matches were thoroughly dominated by the ’Cats, as no Logger managed more than two points in a set.

The men’s team had a lot on its plate with the Pacific Northwest Indoors regional tournament in Walla Walla, Wash. The tournament premiered five teams including Linfield, Whitman College, Pacific Lutheran University and NAIA perennial power Lewis-Clark State College from Idaho and University of California, Santa Cruz.

“It gave the freshman and sophomores some good match experience against good teams in pressure situations,” Gabrielson said.

Against PLU, the ’Cats lost 6-3, but it was their best showing at the tournament. Linfield freshman Tal DeWitt defeated Lute Scott Sheldon in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Gabrielson was the other singles winner.

After losing the first match, 5-7, he managed to win the second match, 7-5. The tiebreaker was pushed to an exhausting 12-10, giving him the victory.

The Wildcats then faced the defending national champions of Lewis-Clark State. Again, the ’Cats were unsuccessful, losing soundly to the Warriors. The ’Cats managed to win one doubles match.

The ’Cats started NWC play against Whitman. Early competition with the No. 6 team in the nation proved to be overwhelming as they lost, 7-2.

Unable to manage a win during the tournament, Linfield gained early experience facing tough competition.

With a deeper conference things have a chance to shape up differently. Falling 1-3 in its first few league matches, Linfield is going to have to play catch up with the other teams at the top of the conference.

“Since we’re 1-3 in the league, every match is going to be crucial,” Gabrielson said. “We’re pretty optimistic. We should do fine once we have a few wins under our belt.”

The women’s team also had a rough start to the preseason, facing up against Division I opponents University of Portland, Jan. 18, and Gonzaga University, Feb. 2. Both teams are members of the West Coast Conference.

Against the UP Pilots, the ’Cats were outmatched and were swept, 7-0. Five of the six matches were decided in straight sets. In Seattle, the ’Cats took on Gonzaga and once again were swept, losing all matches in straight sets.

The Wildcats have stifled NWC competition in women’s play with six consecutive NWC titles and are geared for a seventh this spring. Losing all-Americans Becca Johnson and Megan Rodgers may seem like a major loss. But, with several young players ready to fill those spots, the ’Cats hope to make the transition without missing a beat.

Senior Kasey Kuenzli had to miss last season because of a knee injury, but has worked off any possible rust. She won the ITA Pacific Northwest fall singles championship. She earned the 2006 NWC Player of the Year award and is a favorite to win it again.

   “I knew one way or the other Kasey would win the ITA,” coach Dames Smith said. “It’s a testament to the work she has put into her recovery and tennis game as well as how mentally tough she is.”


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