HILTON HEAD, S.C. – The Carleton College men’s tennis team survived a rare tripleheader on day one of the team’s annual Spring Break trip. The Knights notched 5-4 triumphs over both Allegheny College and Tufts University before closing the action with a 9-0 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan. Every member of Carleton’s 14-man squad played multiple matches during the day.
Opposite of typical scheduling, the day’s opening match versus Allegheny started with singles, and Carleton won four of the six matches. Austin Jiang (Jr./Green Bay, Wis./Bay Port) rallied from a set down for an important 4-6, 6-0, 10-5 victory at second singles.
With the Knights—ranked No. 10 in the central region—needing to win just one of the three doubles matches, the Gators made things interesting with narrow victories at first and third doubles. Jon Aranda (Sr./Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola) and McCoy Becker (So./Ojai, Calif./Thacher School) rallied from a 3-6 deficit to record an 8-6 triumph and claim the victory for the Knights.
"The entire match hinged on Jon and McCoy's come-from-behind win,” said Carleton head coach Stephen Zweifel. “The victory was all the more savory since one could have compared their focus at the beginning of the match to a flock of startled chickens, but that would be disrespecting the chickens."
Carleton next faced Tufts University, the No. 9 squad in the northeast region. The Jumbos grabbed the early lead with victories at first and third doubles. The Knights countered with an impressive 8-0 triumph by Paul Cooper (Jr./Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale Central) and Peter Dunn (Sr./Winnetka, Ill./North Shore Country Day) at the second spot.
Tufts inched closer to the team victory with wins at first and sixth singles. Carleton bounced back behind wins by Jiang and Avery Rux (Fy./Austin, Texas/Home School) at the third and fourth slots. Dunn continued him impressive play with a lopsided 6-0, 6-2 victory at second singles. "Like the Ideal Gas Law, Peter turned up the heat when the pressure was applied," Zweifel said.
With the match now tied 4-4, the deciding point would come from the fifth singles match where Dan Vollman (Sr./Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park River Forest) overcame a one-set deficit to record a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 decision. "Being a fan of classic rock, I would describe Dan's match as ricocheting between ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’” said Zweifel.
The day’s final match lacked the suspense of the other two contests.
Aranda and Cooper prevailed at first doubles by an 8-2 margin. Ben Huang (Fy./Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) and Philip Xiao (Fy./Chino Hills, Calif./Troy) posted an identical result to win at second doubles. Not to be outdone, rookies Paul Elbow (Madison, Wis./Madison East) and Mauricio Gonzalez (La Paz, Bolivia/American Cooperative School) matched their teammates scores as the Knights swept doubles for the first time on the day.
Aranda came back from a set down to win 1-6, 6-3, 10-6 at first singles. Cooper, Matthew Ta (Fy./Mission Viejo, Calif./Capistrano Valley), Nelson Wolf (So./Faibault, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary's School), Xiao, and Elbow all won straight set decisions as Carleton swept the match.
The Knights will look to recover quickly after a busy first day, as Tuesday includes two more matches including a meeting with national No. 27 University of Chicago followed by a contest with Graceland University.