The collective Muhlenberg men’s and women’s tennis team traveled up to Scranton on Oct. 2 to face off in a non-conference match against the Marywood University Pacers. While this would be the only fall semester match for the men, the women’s team was previously victorious on Sept. 25 after a complete sweep of 9-0 against the Cedar Crest College Falcons.
The men were unable to secure a win against the Pacers, ending in a 6-3 loss. Benedict Kohler ‘23 and Daniel Kantor ‘22 were the only Mules that captured wins as they teamed up for doubles, 8-1, and individually won in a decisive fashion 6-0 and 6-2, respectively. However, it took until the last singles match for the women to squeeze out a 5-4 victory, the first back-to-back win for the Mules in almost six years.
There is a massive amount of time between now and their spring openers for both the men and women. Newly hired coach David DeLasCasas Kurvink will need much time to prepare both teams for the spring fully, and early signs indicate that both teams are heading in the right direction.
Kohler is looking forward to getting right back into the off-season, knowing that this time is crucial for not only himself but his teammates.
“Having lost six players last semester due to them graduating, we are now left with a young team with little match experience. Therefore, in order to prepare for the next game [Apr. 2], we will be playing more doubles and singles practice sets during training as well as working more on shot selection and match strategy,” said Kohler.
The Mules are much improved so far under DeLasCasas Kurvink, with both teams showing great energy. “So far, he’s impressed by the enthusiasm the new members have on the team to improve their game (always attending all the practices as well as some players putting in extra practice on their own),” said Kohler. “In terms of improvements, he wants us to improve our doubles performance since this accounts for three out of nine matches and would also like the players to improve their shot consistency.”
For the women, ending the fall “preseason” 2-0 is a massive step forward for the program. Showing the capability to blow other teams out of the water and win those tight matches is an excellent indication that the Mules are attempting to establish a culture built on winning.
Caroline Armknecht ‘22 believes these two matches were great momentum builders going into the off-season. “Our last two wins this fall season have been great about setting a tone for how we want to play in the spring season,” said Armknecht. “Having the fall experience of going on the court and grinding out a win really gives our girls confidence that we can do the same this spring. And, it encourages us to keep on working towards a common goal.”
Since DeLasCasas Kurvink is the head coach of both programs, it makes sense that he would want both the men and women to grow into a cohesive team. The teams train with each other and DeLasCasas Kurvink has also helped them to bond off the court as well.
“Coach [DeLasCasas] Kurvink has been great at promoting a team mentality and fostering a bond between the women’s and the men’s teams. One of my favorite things that Coach has implemented was an escape room at the beginning of the season; it really got all the girls [and guys] to work together in a setting other than tennis and made the team mentality stronger,” said Armknecht.
Kohler also believes that the increased bonds between both teams are extremely beneficial, saying, “The overall communication between everyone has been a lot better as well, which has resulted in better practices and people being able to prioritize their tennis and schoolwork better.”
Both teams will need to compete and grind this winter to continue the program’s steady ascent. One thing that will help is the home courts for the Mules are currently being redone, ready for when they step into the spring season.
Armknecht said, “Tennis is a unique sport due to the fact that it is an individual sport that has been created into a team event, so having bonding activities like escape rooms or team dinners has really boosted team morale and friendship beyond the court.”