COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The terms "playoffs" and "Ursinus College Men's Tennis" have never been used in conjunction before, at least not with any literal meaning. But this Saturday, the Bears have a chance to qualify for post-season tennis for the first time in program history. A win over Muhlenberg would send the squad to the Centennial Conference playoffs as the fifth and final seed.
"This year has been so special," head coach Pete Smith said. "This is the first time that we have ever been in this situation before. So for the kids, for the coaches, it is all brand new. I keep reminding the guys to enjoy the journey, because this is such a tough conference, you never know when or if you will get an opportunity like this again. And they have responded in the most positive way. It's been great."
The Bears (13-6, 4-4 CC) have made historic strides this year, playing clutch tennis at the most opportune times, while erasing quite a few ghosts from seasons past. In the second conference match of the year, they rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat Dickinson for the first time in school history, 5-4. Eleven days later, they went on the road to Chestertown, Maryland, and knocked off Washington College for the first time in 30 years, also by a razor thin 5-4 margin. The team followed those wins with 8-1 victories over Gettysburg and McDaniel, to get to 4-4 in the Centennial Conference and set the table for Saturday's showdown with Muhlenberg.
"It is nice to have our destiny in our own hands," Smith said. "No matter what else happens on Saturday around the conference, if we win, we're in. That is our focus, playing our best tennis against Muhlenberg. We don't want to back into these playoffs – we want to bust down the front door on the way in. That is our attitude."
Smith points to his juniors as his leaders and catalysts for this season's success.
"That 2010 recruiting class was big. They got knocked around quite a bit as freshman and again as sophomores, but the experience they gained was immeasurable. The two Evan's (Stutchin and Lord), Matt (Hope), Dylan (Marsh), Dave (Rowe) and Logan (Metcalf-Kelly) have done everything I have asked of them and more. I could not be prouder of those guys."
Smith fully expects to have his hands full with Muhlenberg on Saturday.
"We have not beaten Muhlenberg since 2004. They are going to come in here and battle us hard. But my guys are hungry, they know what is at stake. We will be ready."
Match time for Saturday is set for 1:00 pm at the Ace Bailey Courts.