After wrapping up the Eastern Illinois Fall Invite and the Toledo Invite, the Eastern men’s tennis team will host the annual Alumni Match Saturday at 10 am.
To this point, the Panthers have been busy, competing in four invites the last two weeks.
Director of tennis Chris Tolson mentioned he is seeing the growth within the team after all the competition.
“Right now, we are looking to get all our players matches against tough and better competition,” he said. “Right now, the idea is to see how our team competes, how we respond to adversity, are we improving our weaknesses. With that said, so far, I am extremely proud of all of them. They are improving daily, they come out each day ready to work hard and with a great attitude. Makes learning and growing a ton easier so I am excited to see where we head the rest of this fall.”
That was the message Tolson conveyed a lot to his team last season, that he wanted to change the team culture and to hold everyone accountable for their actions on and off the courts.
Another aspect Tolson focused on was winning right away, and the players really bought into that style. To date, the Panthers have players winning consolation brackets, or winning multiple matches during the invites this fall.
The key cog of seniors Braden Davis, Freddie O’Brien and Gage Kingsmith, and junior Logan Charbonneau, are all returning for another year which could certainly help the eight new freshmen on the current roster.
The alumni match, for junior Mike Jansen, will be his second with the Panthers, and to him it is a time to relax and reflect.
“The alumni match is just a weekend to have fun and share experiences with people who have been in your situation,” Jansen said. “It’s going to be good and chill. This match is what we all play tennis for: Just fun. No pressure. For myself I’m a little more focused on the Louisville Invite coming up in 3 weeks.”
Even for Charbonneau, he thinks it is a good learning experience.
“I feel like the alumni matches allows the news guys to get a feel the history behind EIU’s tennis team,” he said. “Hearing stories from alumni, seeing their support and getting to know them is a really good thing for them I think.”
Besides the alumni match, Kingsmith said the team is headed in the right direction.
“It’s great to see our team playing at a level I know we can play at. I think we’ll keep getting better all fall until we start in the spring,” he said. “Great things are gonna happen for this team this year.”
Right now, Davis’ perspective is to have the freshman what the program’s about.
“Of course, I’m excited with it being my last one but I’m more excited for all of our new freshmen getting to experience it for the first time and getting to hear about alumni’s stories and time at EIU,” Davis said.
Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]