The Stanford men’s tennis team returns home to a flurry of dual matches this weekend after kicking off its season last week in Oklahoma. The Cardinal, which won both its matches on the road trip, will participate in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, which features four schools at each of 15 host locations vying to advance to next month’s prestigious National Team Indoor Championships. Joining the No. 6 Cardinal at the Taube Family Tennis Center will be No. 48 Boise State, No. 50 Santa Clara and No. 64 Saint Mary’s.
Play will begin Friday morning at 10 a.m. with a matchup of Broncos: the Boise State Broncos taking on the team with the same name from Santa Clara. The Stanford match will begin at 2 p.m. when they will face off against the Saint Mary’s Gaels. The tournament is a simple two-round event: The losers of Friday’s matches square off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the winners at 2 p.m.
All four of these teams are familiar with one another — in fact, Boise State and Saint Mary’s played this past Sunday, with Boise State taking down the Gaels 5-2. Last season Stanford easily defeated both Boise State and Santa Clara. This familiarity is sure to be a blessing for the Stanford squad that is still missing its best player, senior Bradley Klahn.
The absence of Klahn, who is out for about another month with an injury, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for a young Cardinal team that is trying to define itself.
“Without Brad, it’s going to be a challenge for the guys,” said head coach John Whitlinger. “Brad’s absence means that some of the other guys are going to have to step up, which could be a good thing.”
In last weekend’s matches against Tulsa and North Carolina, the two youngest members of Whitlinger’s team, freshmen John Morrissey and Robert Stinemann, did just what their coach wanted and helped fill the void, going a combined 3-1 in singles matches. The two freshmen are both highly touted recruits from opposite sides of the world — Morrissey is from Dublin, Stineman is from Illinois — and stand to be stalwarts for Whitlinger’s squad for four years to come.
Their performance has already garnered praise from some of the team’s elder players.
“Our freshmen played awesome,” said sophomore Jamin Ball. “You wouldn’t have known it was their first dual matches. We have a lot of team chemistry and are looking to build off this momentum.”
Morrissey’s formative first matches in collegiate team tennis were a clearly positive experience.
“It was an amazing experience to play for the Stanford tennis team and one that I will remember for a long time,” he said. “As a tennis player I am used to competing individually so it was an amazing experience to be part of a team, to all be working and fighting together to achieve the same goal.”
Whitlinger is certainly hoping that his team continues to build on its momentum in this weekend’s two matches. The play of his two star freshmen will surely play a large part in deciding that outcome.