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With the pressure of a three-peat looming and a bid to nationals on the line, the men’s tennis team won its third consecutive WIAC Final Four last weekend in Oshkosh.
The Warhawks won all three matches defeating UW-Oshkosh (7-2), UW-La Crosse (9-0) and UW-Eau Claire (6-3). This extended the team’s winning streak to nine. Its last loss came in a nail-biter to DePauw University (5-4) on March 29.
Heading into the weekend, ITAtennis.com had the ’Hawks ranked seventh in the Central Region. None of their opponents were ranked as a team, but there were several players ranked in both singles and doubles.
Because the WIAC is not an automatic-qualifying conference, the ’Hawks are not a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. Winning the event however provides an unofficial guarantee for a bid.
“[Winning the Final Four] solidifies our position but doesn’t improve our position,” coach Frank Barnes said. “It put a lot of pressure on our guys going in because any slip ups could have cost us nationals.”
The team was tested by the top flights for the Titans and Blugolds, which fielded ranked players, but saw little resistance beyond that. The ’Hawks lost two of three No. 1 doubles matches and lost one No. 1 singles flight, but went 22-2 in the rest of their matches.
In the middle of the lineup, juniors Andrew Bayliss and Andy McGlashen went a combined 9-0 last weekend in No. 2 and 3 singles and No. 2 doubles.
Barnes and his players said most teams have strong players in their No. 1 and 2 positions but tend to fall off from there. They said what gives their team an edge is its depth.
“The great thing about our team is our bench players give our top guys tough matches in practice,” Bayliss said. “That’s huge for us when you can hit with anybody on any day and stil get something out of it.”
“For our team, we can put anyone in any match and they will be competitive,” McGlashen said.