Freshman John Qualls positions himself to hit a volley in practice at Laury Tennis Courts. The Baker men’s and women’s tennis teams both finished third overall at the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament Friday and Saturday in St. Louis, Mo. The Wildcats will conclude their season by competing against members of the Wood Valley Racquet Club at 4 p.m. Saturday in Topeka.
Artwork by Pat Howell.
The Baker University men’s and women’s tennis teams wrapped up their seasons with third-place finishes at the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament Friday and Saturday in St. Louis, Mo.
Both teams won their opening rounds, but fell in the semifinals to the teams that would ultimately go on to win HAAC titles.
“We went into those first rounds playing really strong and just took care of business,” head coach Joe Ahmadian said.
The women defeated Missouri Baptist University in the first round 5-1.
“We’d played Missouri Baptist earlier in the season and lost because we didn’t have our full lineup,” junior Danielle Griggs said. “So we definitely went into that match wanting to win.”
Moving into the semifinals against Missouri Valley College, the Baker women‘s team ran into trouble when weather conditions took a turn for the worse and forced a rain delay.
“We had a lot of close matches against Missouri Valley and we definitely had a chance of winning but the rain delay just cooled us off a bit while they came back pretty strong,” Ahmadian said.
The men defeated St. Ambrose University in the opening round of the tournament 5-2.
“We didn’t play them at all in the regular season, so we didn’t know what to expect, but we just had to focus on playing well,” Ahmadian said.
The Wildcats then moved on to face Graceland University in the semifinals, a team they had narrowly lost to earlier in the season.
“I think we had a chance to win against Graceland, but they had a different lineup from the first time we played them so almost everyone played someone different,” senior Casey Gleue said.
Both Graceland and Missouri Valley went on to claim their respective conference championships after defeating the Wildcats.
“I feel like we got kind of unlucky because we ended up playing the conference champs in the (semifinals) on both sides,” Ahmadian said. “But everyone played really well so I’m proud of the teams.”
The men’s and women’s teams will finish off their respective seasons at 4 p.m. Saturday with a fundraiser in Topeka at Wood Valley Racquet Club.
“The members of Wood Valley are paying to play with us,” Griggs said. “It’s just a fun way to raise money for the team.”
Reflecting back on the season, the Wildcats exceeded the expectations they had for themselves.
“The last two years we didn’t win any matches at conference, so to go from dead last to third is huge for us,” Griggs said.
Gleue, who will be graduating in May, said he’s proud of the progress the Wildcats have made while he has been the men’s team captain.
“Getting third might not be a success for a lot of teams, but I think it was for us and both teams will just continue to build and hopefully go after the conference championship next year,” Gleue said.