The No. 21-ranked Hopkins men’s tennis team put their undefeated start to the season on the line against the No. 20-ranked North Carolina Wesleyan College Battling Bishops in Salisbury, MD.
The Battling Bishops immediately proved to be a worthy challenger for the Jays. Starting with doubles play, the Bishops took the first two out of the three doubles matches.
Senior Austin Gu commented on the feelings he experienced fighting an uphill battle against a strong Bishop squad.
“We definitely knew that our team was down. I’m not sure if being down is something that makes us play differently in concrete ways: I feel like it’s more so something where you have this heightened sense of urgency and you kind of just focus in more and play with a little more intention,” Gu said.
Bishops Jhonny Acosta and Ingmar Remmerswaal won 8-6 against the Jays’ junior Vishnu Joshi and senior Vikram Vasan at the second doubles slot.
Nikita Revin and Max Robinson followed up for North Carolina Wesleyan, winning their match against the Jays’ freshman duo of Andrew Tran and Alex Kernagis 8-4. In a critical moment down 2-0, Gu and classmate Joe Cartledge took the reins for the Jays’ comeback, edging the Bishops’ Juan Vallejo and Roberto Puig 8-7.
Gu spoke about the attention to detail and style of play that is necessary to win when playing in a close match.
“For Joe and I, I think our approach is to just play within ourselves. We want to play aggressive, but we also don’t want to get to the point where we’re flying at balls and sending them to the fence. I think a lot of our strategy just comes down to doing the basic things well,” he said.
In singles play, Joshi provided an early equalizer for the Jays as he won his sets easily 6-1 and 6-0 against Puig. With the score at 2-2, the Bishops looked to turn the momentum their way and, for a moment, it looked as though they had.
Acosta took the first set of his match 6-3 and then won the next set 6-1 to give the Bishops a 3-2 lead.
This Bishop win, however, proved to be the last point the Jays let up for the rest of the day, as Hopkins swept the rest of the matches. In the second spot of singles play, Gu took on Vallejo. Gu dropped the first set 4-6 only to dominate in the next two sets, winning 6-1 and 6-0.
Continuing Hopkins’s streak of success, Tran rallied to defeat Bishop Max Robinson. Taking the first set 7-5, Tran then squeaked out the next set 7-6, giving the Blue Jays their first lead of the day. Hopkins’ senior Aaron Carey shut down any possibility of a Bishop victory when he defeated Revin at the fourth spot of the singles matchups.
Sophomore Brian Wang capped off a successful day for the Hopkins squad by winning his match against Remmerswaal. Wang captured the first set 6-1, dropped the second 3-6, but came out on top in the third set 1-0 to seal the victory.
After their win on Saturday, the Blue Jays are now 6-5 all time against the Battling Bishops. For the third time in five years, the Blue Jays are at 3-0 to start the season, a feat not accomplished since 2017.
This win also gave Hopkins head coach Chuck Willenborg the 248th win of his career as the leader of the Jays. He is likely to reach the illustrious mark of 250 wins by the end of the season.
Gu spoke on what the team hopes to accomplish this season.
“As far as our short term goals go, we have spring break coming up and we’re going to be playing a couple of top-15 teams, so we’re definitely looking to prepare for those matches and knock them off,” he said.
He further explained the team’s long-term goals.
“In the long term, I think we’re definitely looking to make the Elite Eight. It’s something we haven’t been able to do in a while, and we think we have a good shot this year,” Gu said.
With plans to extend their undefeated streak, the Jays will travel to Orlando, Fla. to face the No. 6-ranked Wesleyan University Cardinals on March 13.