By Clay Sawatzke
Interim Times Editor
It’s easy to look at a losing record as a lost season. It’s an easy judgment to make. It doesn’t require a peeling back of the layers or a comparison to expectations. Because sometimes when you look at how a team expected to be, versus how they are, you will find there is a lot more to their season than wins and losses.
That’s been the case for the Magic boys tennis team this spring as they deal with a lack of experience stemming from major losses to graduation last spring.
There have been some bright spots this season, especially from Jack Fair and Ethan Pauly at doubles, and Cody Black at singles (also known as the only three Magic players who returned with varsity experience), but record-wise it’s been a tough year for the Magic. Thus far, they’ve picked up just one win. But they’re getting closer.
“I’m actually pleasantly surprised we’ve improved as much as we have,” said Coach Jeff Bordwell. “We’re in every match that we play. Hopefully by the end of the year they’ll be wins.”
Early on, the Magic took some bigger losses as they struggled a little bit to find an identity, and as players who were new to varsity learned to compete at this level. But recently, they’ve gotten closer and closer. It’s happened faster and more often than both Bordwell and his captains (Fair and Black) seemed to have expected. Most matches come down to one or two big points. And while those points aren’t going the Magic’s way right now, the closeness has still provided a lot of optimism amongst the players and their coach. And if the Magic can just find a way to swing those, they could still end up in the top half of the conference, which is their biggest goal remaining.
A strength they will be counting on if the wins are going to start piling up is that of their doubles teams. Led by Fair and Pauly, the Magic have been picking up a good percentage of their wins in doubles play this season.
“We have some athletes in doubles, that are moving well,” said Bordwell. “I think they like who they’re playing with. That makes a world of difference.”
For example, Fair and Pauly started teaming up on the tennis court back in seventh grade. After a couple year absence while Fair moved to singles as a freshman and sophomore, they are back at it as juniors this year. Fair says they work well as a team.
“Ethan is great up at the net and I’m pretty good at serving,” said Fair.
As returning varsity players, Pauly and Fair had a little bit of a head start coming into the season, but Fair is excited at how fast the entire team is coming around.
“We’re looking better than we thought we would,” he admitted. “Everyone is improving, each practice we’re improving.”
Practices tend to be a little bit of a rarity in the middle of spring season. An already compacted season is almost always pushed even closer together by a couple of rainouts. And in that aspect, this season has been no different. But Bordwell is quick to point to early season practices as being one of the biggest keys to the team being more competitive than expected this season.
“I think that’s [the weather] a big key,” said Bordwell. “A lot of these guys are three sport athletes or two sport athletes, that don’t get out and play much tennis in the winter. “
But this season, the courts were open basically by March 1. And kids got out on the courts a couple of weeks before practice even started, allowing more outdoor practice time than some seasons provide all spring.
But, there is still much work to be done. The record is still 1-9. And while they are closer to catching a lot of teams, they are still a ways behind top teams, such as Becker, who they will have to beat if they want to find success in sections this spring.
I think it’s unrealistic to say tomorrow we’re going to beat Becker,” said Bordwell. “That’s now saying we can’t do it in a couple of weeks. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow.”
But even if they don’t catch Becker, the end of the season will provide the Magic with a few other opportunities to make a mark. They get rematches with some teams they have already lost to this season. And if they are making the improvements they think they are, these rematches will give them an opportunity to prove themselves.
“Our close matches we gotta win, we gotta come through in those,” said Black, who has been a leader on the singles side for the Magic this season. “It would be really nice to work hard for it, and come through. It would show our improvement.”
Last Thursday the Magic lost another close one, falling 4-3 to Buffalo. Brian Peterson and Chase Olson picked up individual wins for the Magic, as Olson battled through three full sets to get his win, and Peterson picked up the win in a second set tiebreak.
In doubles, the Magic got a win from Zac Meierhofer and Jordan Karjala.