Men's Tennis Faces Off Against Themselves
Reported by Danielle Brown
The George Fox University (GFU) Men’s Tennis Team succeeded in claiming both the singles and doubles All-American titles at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northwest Regional Championships in Walla Walla, Washington on Sept. 24.
Sophomores William Leach and Keaten Baker won the doubles title while Leach also beat GFU freshman Luke Lemaitre to win the singles title.
“I expected a lot of energy coming into it,” Lemaitre said about his first ITA experience, “and a lot of support which we got.” Lemaitre had to play two GFU teammates, Baker in the semi-finals and Leach in the finals.
The match against Baker resulted in three and a half hours of playing and a third set tie-breaker—a tough win by Lemaitre. Though the stakes were high, all three men agreed that it felt “just like practice.”
“The match itself was intense,” Baker said, “but the environment wasn’t.” Directed by the coaches, Lemaitre and Baker were sent to play their match without their teammates watching them so that the men wouldn’t have to play in an environment fed by their teammates’ “Gladiator-like” cheering.
This changed the atmosphere that is simulated when playing an opposing team and allowed the men to face off without any added pressure. Lemaitre said that a similar vibe carried over to the finals match with Leach even though more teammates were watching.
Doubles was a different story. High expectations were placed on Leach and Baker, who were seeded second in the tournament. Though nerves impacted their playing in the beginning of the tournament, they battled through and came out on top, winning their final match 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-6). Leach said it simply came down to playing tough.
“It feels good,” Baker remarked when asked how it felt to have done so well at such a competitive tournament. Agreeing, Leach pushed the success back onto his teammates, who did well in every match that they played. They poured all their energy and focus into both brackets, whether they played in the main round or they worked their way through consolation.
“You’re live in those moments,” Jeff Cero, assistant coach commented. He is proud of the boys’ team performance and excited to see where the season takes them.
“It’s about analyzing your game and giving yourself the best opportunity rather than letting the moment swallow you up,” Cero said.
For Leach and Baker, it’s not over yet. On Oct. 9, they will fly to Georgia to play in the ITA Oracle Cup—Leach in singles, Leach and Baker in doubles.
For the rest of the team, it’s time to prepare for the spring season where the team hopes to rank among the top 20 nationally and win the Northwest Conference Tournament.