The Lawrence University men’s tennis team had a very successful time at the Midwest Conference Championships, held at the Nielson Tennis Center in Madison. The Vikings brought home two individual titles, a doubles title, and took third place overall in the Conference.
The Vikings began the weekend on Friday in the team portion of the tournament. The Vikings faced the first seed from the South Division, Grinnell.
The Pioneers had defeated the Vikings in their regular season meeting by a score of 6-1. In this match, it was much the same, as Grinnell defeated LU 5-2. The two Vikings to win matches were Tom Lipari and Nick Beyler, marking the start of a very successful weekend for the two of them.
The Vikings played Knox in the third place match. Knox was swept in the semifinals by Ripon 4-0. Knox went on top early by wining two of the three doubles matches to pick up a point. That was their only point of the match.
The Vikings stormed back in the singles matches, winning four matches without even losing a set.
The Vikings defeated Knox 4-1 and took home third place in the Conference. It was their best finish in the MWC since 1995.
On Saturday, the singles matches were played.
The Vikings had a number of high-seeded players and were expected to compete for championships in all six divisions. The Vikings did just that, winning two titles and taking home second place in another division.
In fact, all six players made it to the championship semifinals. The two Lawrence champions were senior Lipari and freshman Beyler.
Lipari had absolutely no trouble at all, easily winning in the first round 6-0, 6-0 over Evan Hall of Lake Forest. In the semifinals, Lipari played well again and defeated Adam Bruno of Ripon 6-3, 6-4. In the finals, Lipari faced top seeded Ashfaqur Rahman of Grinnell.
Lipari had no trouble versus the Pioneer as he triumphed with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Lipari became the first singles champion for Lawrence since Wolf Nielson in 1995. He finished his senior season with an amazing 15-1 record.
Not much later, Beyler became the second individual champion for LU. Beyler had a little more work to do then Lipari, but still triumphed easily.
In the first round, Beyler shut down Carroll’s David Pye 6-1, 6-0. In the semifinals, Beyler faced the second seed Boram Um of Grinnell. It was a hard-fought match, but Beyler defeated Um 6-3, 6-4.
Beyler then faced Ripon’s Mike Sumnicht in the championship match. Sumnicht was no challenge—Beyler easily defeated him 6-1, 6-4.
Beyler finishes his promising freshman season at 14-4, 12-4 at number four singles.
The Vikings had many near-winners as well.
First singles player Jai Arora lost in the championship match to defending champion Felipe Bautista of Grinnell 6-4, 7-6 (6-4). Brian Hilgeman, Dave Carter and Dan Putterman all lost in the championship semifinals for the Vikings.
On Sunday, the doubles portion of the tournament took place. The Vikings again were favored to finish high.
Lipari and Arora were seeded highly in the first doubles, and Hilgeman and Beyler were the first seed, after going through the conference season undefeated. They also left the tournament undefeated after winning the conference championship.
In the first round, the two freshmen had no problem defeating Carroll 6-3, 6-1. In the semifinals, the two Vikings defeated Grinnell 6-1, 6-3 without much work. They advanced to the championship where they faced Ripon.
Ripon had Drew Patin, who had defeated Hilgeman less then twenty-four hours earlier in the third singles semifinals, and Andy Schaller, who had won the fifth singles title.
The Vikings were just too strong as a pair. Hilgeman and Beyler teamed up to cruise to a 6-4, 6-3 victory and the title.
They are the first Vikings to win a doubles title since Yura Letuchy and Tobin Laurson in 1994. Hilgeman and Beyler finished 13-4 on the season.
The other Lawrence doubles pairs fared well also. Both other Lawrence doubles pairings lost in the championship semifinals. Ripon defeated Lipari and Arora, and Grinnell defeated Carter and Putterman.
With all but Lipari returning next season for the Vikings, and with Ripon and Grinnell losing many players, the Vikings should be one of the favorites to win the MWC title next spring.
Hilgeman and Beyler will be sophomores, and should continue their impressive reign in their doubles matches. Jai Arora will be a junior and should compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament next spring.
Next season, the Vikings may be celebrating even more then they are this year.