The Oberlin Stories Project

On being a member of the men’s tennis team

Sam Towne ’12

“When I look to the court next to me and see a teammate fighting hard, I am motivated to give it that extra ounce of effort. We are all striving to reach the same goal.”

Sam swings a racquet.

“Come on, this point,” I said to James, my doubles partner. We were playing a home match against Grove City, and after two dramatic hours of tennis, James and I were locked at 5-5 in a match-deciding tiebreaker with our opponents. We were just two points away from getting the first win of our college tennis careers.

But after a long, difficult rally, we lost the next point when one of our opponents hit a winning volley. We both had to resist the urge to throw our rackets to the ground in frustration. We had already saved two match points to get this far, and now we were facing another. But we had come too far and played too hard to give up now. We had to bear down and fight for the next points. And we did.

We played two great points to take a 7-6 lead, and we finally had a match point of our own. We needed to close it out. It was my serve, and I was incredibly nervous. I somehow managed to conjure up a decent serve to start the point. The rally was tense; neither team was willing to make a mistake. But when a ball landed short in the court to my backhand side, I knew I had to take a chance.

I vividly remember the shot I hit to finally close out that match: I took my racket back and drove the ball down the line. One of our opponents stuck his racket out to try to get the ball back, but it was no use. The ball bounced weakly off his strings straight into the bottom of the net. We had won.

I remember being overwhelmed with excitement, feeling that every loss we had taken that season no longer mattered. It felt great to share that moment with my doubles partner; it was the first win for both of us, and neither of us would have been able to do it alone.

Oberlin athletics taught me to be part of a team. In high school, I never liked playing doubles. I always preferred singles—I didn’t have to rely on anybody else and I didn’t have to be responsible for the success or failure of my doubles partner. But now, I find the unique aspects of strategy and teamwork in doubles make the game more enjoyable. If I hit a good shot, I set up my partner to finish the point. But if I hit a weak shot, I put my partner in a dangerous position. There is an added pressure in doubles, a pressure that I can now handle and that I have even come to enjoy.

Many people think that tennis is an individual sport, that it is simply a one-on-one game. But when I hear my teammates tirelessly cheering each other on, pumping each other up, I know I am playing a team sport. The great feeling that accompanies hitting a winner is amplified when I hear one of my teammates shout, “Yeah, Sam!” Whether I’m serving for the match or I appear to be down and out, my team is behind me. When I look to the court next to me and see a teammate fighting hard, I am motivated to give it that extra ounce of effort. We are all striving to reach the same goal.

The Oberlin men’s tennis team has seen its up and downs over the past few years. We’ve had exhilarating wins as well as heartbreaking defeats. But regardless of the result, I’m glad to go through it all with my teammates. Being a tennis player at Oberlin has been the best part of my college experience; never have I felt more like part of a team. My teammates have become some of my closest friends, and I greatly look forward to two more years of tennis with them.