The men’s tennis team (2-10, 1-0 MWC) has been the victim of a difficult non-conference schedule so far. The Prairie Fire played four schools (one of which was an NCAA Division II program) during spring break in Florida that had combined team records of 29-15.
Though Knox came back from Orlando without a win, it was able to regroup and get off to a solid start in Midwest Conference play. The Prairie Fire defeated the Illinois College Blueboys 7-2 in Galesburg on March 31.
Knox got singles wins from junior Erik Hane (#1), sophomore Shaun Mulani (#2), sophomore David Ham (#3), and freshmen Max Gatyas (#5) and Andrei Papancea (#6). Mulani’s victory was flawless, winning 6-0, 6-0.
In addition, the doubles teams of Hane and Mulani (#1) and Ham and junior Kenton Tilford (#2) took victories, as well.
The Prairie Fire will enjoy a friendlier schedule from here out, as all regular season matches between now and the Midwest Conference Championships will be played at home.
The next match brings NAIA opponent St. Ambrose University to town this Saturday at 12 p.m. On Sunday, Knox hosts Lawrence University at 9 a.m.
Men’s golf 16th at Illinois Wesleyan
Knox’s men’s golf team finally opened their competitive slate last weekend at the Illinois Wesleyan Invitational at Ironwood Golf Course in Normal, Ill.
The competition was stiff, featuring nationally-ranked bluebloods like Illinois Wesleyan, Nebraska Wesleyan, Millikin University, Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
On day one, junior Bobby Stuebi (75) and freshman James Fenner (74) each played their way into the top ten of the individual standings, leaving Knox in the top half of the team leaderboard. Knox’s team score of 324 was within three strokes of Midwest Conference foes Monmouth College and Carroll University.
“Bobby is a top 10 player in the MWC, and James could be right there with him,” head coach Rob Purlee said. “We thought if we could get a better overall performance in the next round we’d be in great shape.”
Unfortunately, the team struggled on day two, and finished in 16th place out of 22 teams for the tournament. Stuebi’s two round total of 158 was good enough to finish in the top-25 individually, and he was followed by Fenner (164), junior Jamie Jang (173), and seniors A.J. Shule (176) and Kevin Morris (179).
Windy conditions stymied scoring on day two, as most teams struggled to improve on their day one performances.
Prior to the invitational at Wesleyan, weather trimmed the team’s already thin schedule. Brutally cold conditions resulted in the cancellation of the Prairie Fire Classic at Soangetaha Country Club, leaving Knox with just one home meet this season, the Scot-Fire Invite on April 22.
“There was nothing we could do about it,” said Purlee, who is entering his third season as head coach.
“Thirty-five degree weather is not exactly the best way to play golf, and that is the risk we take in hosting the first tournament of the season. I just feel bad for our seniors [Peter Cain, Morris and Shule], because I know how much the tournament means to them. Luckily we still have one more we co-host,” Purlee said.
Despite the disappointing finish at Illinois Wesleyan, Purlee knows what the team is capable of.
“To win the MWC we just need four guys to be playing their best when it matters. Two guys will let us compete, but four is what it takes to win. It will be interesting to see how things go from here.”
The Prairie Fire will now head to the Augustana Invitational this weekend at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Ill. Play begins at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Women’s golfers eighth at Illinois College
In a field featuring three other Midwest Conference schools, Knox women’s golf team defeated two en route to an eighth place finish at the Illinois College Spring Invitational.
Knox was led by sophomore Mia Savard whose two-day total of 189 put her in a tie for 26th place overall. Senior Jessica DeMory finished right behind Savard in 28th with a two-day total of 191. Senior Rachel Talpers finished in 30th place with a total of 195.
Knox finished far ahead of both Monmouth College and Illinois College, who finished ninth and tenth respectively. Carroll University finished in sixth place.
The Prairie Fire have just one event left in their informal spring season, this weekend’s Knox-Monmouth Spring Invitational. Day one will take place Friday at 1 p.m. at Soangetaha Country Club in Galesburg, Ill. Day two will be at Gibson Woods Golf Course in Monmouth, Ill. at 9 a.m.