SEWARD, Neb. – Down 4-3, the Bulldogs needed freshman Patricio Esquivel and senior Joel Kaldahl to pull out matches at singles positions 3 and 4 in order to earn a team victory. They came through in the clutch and the Concordia University men’s tennis team topped visiting Tabor College, 5-4, inside the Walz Fieldhouse on Saturday. In the proceeding match, the Bulldog women fell 6-3 in their season opener.
The Concordia men are now 2-1 with both wins coming by 5-4 scores.
The men’s match ultimately came down to the No. 3 singles spot manned by Esquivel, a first-year Bulldog from Morelia, Mexico. Esquivel moved to 2-1 on the season with an impressive 8-3 win over the Bluejays’ Harrison Faber. The moment was not too big for Esquivel who showed great poise throughout the day.
He also teamed with Javier Moreno, another native of Morelio, Mexico, on an 8-5 win at No. 2 doubles. The duo saw a 6-1 lead get whittled down to 6-5. They settled back in and took the next two games to help the Bulldogs grab a 2-1 advantage after doubles.
“Close, nerve-wracking matches seem to be the name of the game on the men’s side,” graduate assistant coach James Ingrahm said.
Like Esquivel, senior Mike McCartney recorded two winning performances to aid the team triumph. McCartney and junior Jonathan Douglas breezed to an 8-0 win at No. 3 doubles. It was an important step in developing chemistry for a pair that has worked together in only two matches in their careers.
“We’re still kind of switching it up and trying to figure out what the best mix is so we can do as well as possible,” McCartney said. “J.D. and I played really well today. We hit really solid serves. We had a high-first serve percentage and we were able to put balls away today.”
McCartney then reeled off an 8-4 decision at No. 5 singles by using a more patient approach against Roberto Flores, who McCartney kept moving all over the court.
That win gave Concordia a shot as the match came to a head. Esquivel and Kaldahl rose to the occasion with victories by scores of 8-3 and 8-1, respectively.
“Joel and Patricio both played huge,” McCartney said. “Both played real solid and played to their strengths. That was a great team win.”
In the women’s match, Tabor (1-1) got its first win in what was the second match of the season for the Bluejays. The biggest standout on the day for the Concordia women was junior Grace Hollenbeck, who snatched victories at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. The Wheat Ridge, Colo., native, who went 10-7 at No. 4 singles last season, appears to have taken another step as she works her way up the lineup.
“It was a fun match,” Hollenbeck said. “I was just trying to be consistent and go through what I’ve learned and put it into practice. My opponent did really well and she was fun to play.
“I was really trying to think about where I put the ball and be smart about my play.”
Hollenbeck partnered with senior Katelyn Koll in doubles play. The duo triumphed 8-2 over Rebecca Faber and Kiana Fujioka.
The trio of Hollenbeck, Koll and junior Elyse Kohl (an 8-3 winner at No. 3 singles on Saturday) will be counted upon heavily as young Bulldogs in the bottom half of the lineup progress.
“Our three returning girls really played well and impressed with their movement on the court and their shot-making ability,” Ingrahm said. “We look forward to getting better every day.”
The Concordia season opener marked the collegiate debuts of newcomers Laura Sattler and Christine Ruskamp.
Both Bulldog tennis squads return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Baldwin City, Kan., to take on Baker University. First serve is set for 4 p.m.