The Prairie Fire men’s tennis team played twice this week, splitting against two non-conference opponents with a win against Eureka College on Monday, April 14 and a loss to St. Ambrose University at home on Wednesday, April 16.
The match away at Eureka was a good win for the Fire, as they won all but one match, finishing 8-1. The one loss by senior Lance Hoffman was not played and simply lost by default. Besides that, the Fire dominated, winning two singles matches and two doubles matches without losing a single game, going 6-0 in both sets. Besides that the only close match was won by sophomore Jared Katchen, who won 6-4, 6-3 against Aaron Rapp. It was a good way to start a week that will end in competition against conference powerhouse Grinnell College on Saturday, April 19.
Wednesday was another story, as St. Ambrose University came to the Merdian Courts on a blustery day, ultimately defeating the Fire 9-0 in tough competition. Senior Josh Moten was disappointed but realistic about the loss.
“Lots of the teams we face put more money into their sports, but Knox prides itself on its academics,” he said. “Coach said Ambrose was real good, and we didn’t have much of a scouting report on them, so we didn’t know what to expect.”
Coupled with this lack of knowledge were winds gusting to almost 30mph, which becomes a real challenge. Even so, Moten was sure that the team could have pulled through.
“Our team always has a problem with non-conference games,” he said. “Getting motivated for it is tough. We make a lot of excuses, like the weather today, but we shouldn’t have lost.”
He further noted that chances were let go, particularly in the #1 doubles match of Katchen and Hoffman, and the numbers one and three singles, consisting of Katchen and himself. In the end, though Ambrose’a larger team and Knox’s lack of motivation lost the match for the Fire 9-0.
Despite the loss Wednesday against an understandably difficult opponent, the team looks ahead to Saturday, April 19, as they journey to Grinnell, Iowa to face the Pioneers in a make or break match to see where they end come conference time. Grinnell leads the Southern Division, with a record of 2-0, but with the right combination of losses by Monmouth and Lake Forest, coupled with a win at Grinnell for Knox, the Fire could light it up come conference time.
“We want to go out there and play hard,” said Moten. “We have nothing to lose against Grinnell. They have two regionally ranked players, but we just can’t play it safe.”
Even with a team loss, several Knox players will head to the singles or doubles championships, with one player seeded in conference and another 11-2 on the year, the team looks to do its best.
“As a team, we will do real well at conference championships,” said Moten.