By: Griffin Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org
When you consider spring along the Red River, nets are for fishing, love is possessing four-wheel drive and “break points” come when it’s below zero for the fiftieth day in a row and you feel like setting yourself on fire would be a reasonable substitute.
Okay, that last one’s a stretch.
The point is, a Moorhead spring and the game of tennis are rarely connected in thought.
MSUM tennis head coach, the aptly named Oliver Summers, is working to melt away this disassociation.
Coming off a monumental season, including a 16-4 team record and a runner-up finish at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference—both finishes top in school history—MSUM’s newfound success has drawn attention from prospects across the country.
Of this year’s four freshmen, two hail from California (Emma Anderson and Jalyn Kornblum), while the others spent high school in Colorado (Rachel Nguyen) and Montana (Stevi Parker).
“As we’ve gotten more successful, we’ve gotten more players from further up field,” Summers said. “More people hear about your program, and it helps build a talented team.”
The Dragons have a young roster featuring six underclassmen and void of seniors. But it’s not something that worries Summers or the rest of the team.
“We have so much depth and talent, it’s really not noticeable,” sophomore Julia Geske said of the youthful roster.
Geske, a recruit from Rochester, Minnesota, captured 1st Team All-NSIC honors her freshman year, taking over the top spot in the lineup for MSUM.
She’s off to another strong start in her second season, posting a 5-1 individual record and earning NSIC Tennis Player of the Week in February.
“Having a positive mindset is an important attribute for any athlete,” Geske said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to perform on the court.”
MSUM is off to a similar start as last year, sitting at 5-1 with their lone loss coming at the hands of perennial NSIC bully, Augustana University.
Augustana has won eight straight NSIC tournaments and has swept the Dragons the past three years. The “next step” for MSUM tennis certainly leads through Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“This year, we had quite a few close sets against them. We were only a couple games away from being really competitive,” Summers said of the 7-0 loss to Augustana. “We’re still building this program, and we will continue to do so.”
As for the deterring weather Minnesota’s February and March hold, it won’t affect the sport as you might think. Thanks to the exceptional indoor facilities distributed around the Midwest, the entirety of NSIC tennis is played indoors.
“A lot of tennis players to prefer to play indoors,” Summers said. “You don’t have to worry about the wind or the sun affecting play.”
The Dragons only scheduled outdoor showdowns will most likely avoid a blizzard. They will spend spring break in Orlando, Florida. The trip will feature matchups against Seton Hill, Grand Valley State, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“This trip will challenge us as a team,” Geske said. “Playing outside of our conference is a big opportunity for us to grow and gear up for the rest of the season.”
The Dragons will host Winona State and Upper Iowa in NSIC action at the Courts Plus Tennis Facilities in Fargo before taking off to Orlando, Florida on March 1.