Highly Ranked Quaker Tennis Heads Into Season with Ambitious Goals
February 06, 2013
The Earlham College men’s tennis team is on the cusp of historic achievements, and a successful fall tournament helped pave the way.
Regionally the team ranks 18th, and after reaching the championship match at the fall United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Tournament in Indianapolis, Jack Ventura-Cruess, a first-year from California, and Anton Bartashevich, a second-year from Russia, are ranked 13th nationally as a doubles team and ranked fourth regionally. As a squad, the Quakers rank 18th in the region.
In addition to the doubles team, several other players made it deep enough in the tourney that Earlham went from the school with the name that announcers mispronounced to the school that people in the stands were talking about, says Ventura-Cruess.
“Jack and Anton making it to the finals is, I believe, one of the biggest achievements in sports that has ever happened at Earlham,” says senior Brad Maisey, a four-year varsity tennis player from New Zealand.
Eager to build upon the off-season success, the team has set ambitious goals and hopes to climb the rankings through a rigorous non-conference schedule.
“We want to be nationally ranked as a team this year,” Maisey says. “We have the opportunity to do so because our non-conference schedule is almost all against teams that are ranked above us.”
Players say they practiced and worked hard in the off-season with the hopes of winning the team’s third straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The team wants to make a run in the tournament with wins against higher ranked teams.
“We have the talent and the ability, but if we can come up with a signature win, that will really boost our confidence,” says Phillip Locklear, a first-year from Dayton. The schedule doesn’t allow the team to waste anytime.
“Our third match of the season is against nationally ranked Denison, so that should set the tone for the rest of the season,” Maisey says.
The players say there is a good mix of personalities on the team.
“There are players from Russia, New Zealand, England, Dayton, Greenfield, and California, and California is like a whole other country,” Maisey says. “We have players who come from rich families and others who are not. We get on pretty well, and we all have the common element of tennis. We have the same type of humor that includes a lot of inside jokes both on and off the tennis courts. We joke about all sorts of stuff, and we may joke at the change of ends during matches.”
“As a team we are relaxed and laid back but we compete really well,” Locklear says. “We have fun together and mesh well. My Earlham teammates are often the loudest in the stands. It’s fun to have my teammates cheering me on and I enjoy watching them play and upsetting these huge schools.”
The team conditions and trains at Earlham and drives 40 minutes each way three times each week to a facility in Dayton to practice against each other. The trips to and from the Dayton facility serve as team bonding time
“We are very competitive and are constantly nipping at each other’s heels.” Ventura-Cruess says. “It’s a healthy atmosphere where we work hard but we enjoy our competitive time on the court.”
Locklear says one of the team’s strengths is its depth. “On any given day, anyone on our team can beat anyone else. One thing that really stands out about our tennis team is that we have all kinds of styles and (Coach Adam Van Zee) can look at the matchups and see how we might best compete.”
Maisey credits much of the team’s progress during his four years at Earlham to Van Zee’s recruiting efforts.
“We have so much more depth now, and there is not a big drop off in ability at the top spots,” Maisey says.