On the weekend of Oct. 8, the Elizabethtown College men’s tennis team competed in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Individual Championships. The team came home with two singles champions in the event for the first time in six seasons. Star players from the MAC Championships include juniors Paul Whitman and Josh Riehl, who brought home the biggest wins.
Whitman, who finished out his perfect season at the MAC Individual Championships, defeated Messiah’s Dave Wichert in Saturday’s second round. In back-to-back sets, Whitman triumphed 6-1 and 6-2. In the semifinals round on Sunday, he won over his competition 6-4, 3-6, 10-6, gaining a spot in the championship round against the No. 3 singles player. In the finals, Whitman won the first set handily at 6-1 but had to work in the second set. It was close, but Whitman was able to win the title with 7-6 in the second set. With his wins at the championship, Whitman finished out a perfect fall season.
Speaking about the challenges he went through at MACs, he said, “The hardest part was the gale force winds, I’d like to say.” The windy day certainly affected some of the match: “balls that you thought were out would be in, and ones that looked like they should be in were blown out,” Whitman added.
Riehl also made a strong showing at MACs, easily winning his quarterfinals round at 6-0, 6-0 and his semifinal round at 6-4, 6-2. In the final round, Riehl again easily triumphed over his opponent, Wilkes’ Clarke Freeman, at 6-1, 6-3 to win the title.
Whitman and Riehl are the first two Etown players to win titles at MACs in the same season since 2005, which was the first time in Etown history. “Everyone was playing strong this season,” Whitman commented. “And we have two new freshmen coming in to add to it. Everyone playing singles made it to the semis, and I think that really shows the depth of our lineup.”
Senior Manrique Arrea also had a good performance at the championship, making it to the semifinals before being defeated at 6-4, 6-4 by King’s senior Chris Cozzillo. Arrea has been playing tennis at Etown since he was a first-year and was proud of his performance, but the loss was still a letdown.“Not going to the finals was a disappointment since it was my last season. You always want to win your final year,” he said. Arrea also did well in doubles with his partner Whitman. The duo made it to the semifinals round before being knocked out.
Tennis is mainly a spring season sport, where the bulk of the games are played, but it also has a fall season. The fall season consists mainly of two big tournaments; the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Southeast Regional in Fredericksburg, Va. and the Middle Atlantic Conference in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The team practices about one-and-a-half to two hours each weekday, and players typically practice on their own during the weekends. Coach Matt Helsel was also recognized for his tips and advice throughout the season and during games.
The MAC Championship is the last event in the fall season, but the tennis team will continue practicing for the spring The titles won by Whitman and Riehl last weekend were a triumphant end to this season that the entire team is proud of.