Senior Kelsey Brown keeps her eye on the ball to return it over the net in a match against Northwestern College. She defeated her opponent, keeping her undefeated record in GPAC play.

Tennis closes out regular season strong before GPAC tournament

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams are coming off dominant seasons from last year. The men won their fifth consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) tournament title, and the women won their third consecutive GPAC tournament title. With these tournament wins, both teams punched their tickets to nationals. For both teams, sights are set on winning another conference tournament title this year.

“Our goal is always try to win conference, not just regular season, but the conference tournament. That is the biggest goal throughout the year,” said Senior Dakota Burns.

The women’s tennis team sustained their perfect record in conference play with a 6-0 sweep of GPAC teams and a 10-4 overall record. The only losses came from National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II schools before starting GPAC play.

“This season has actually gone really, really well,” said Senior Kelsey Brown. “We were a little nervous at first since we lost three seniors last year, but the team really showed resistance and the fight to win.”

The Broncos are led by their duo of Kelseys: Brown and Flaherty. Both are seniors with impressive resumes for the three years they have played for Hastings. Flaherty has gone 18-2 in GPAC singles play. Brown has not lost a conference singles match, maintaining a perfect 22-0 record. She earned the GPAC Player of the Week title for the week of April 8-14.

“There is pressure, but I feel like I can live up to the expectation and not be worried about losing. I have played for 16 years, so I am pretty confident,” Brown said.

The men’s tennis team will host their last regular season match against the Midland Warriors on April 20 at 1 p.m. Hastings lost their first matchup last year against Midland, but then came back in the conference tournament to beat the Warriors. If the Broncos are able to collect a win then, they will have the number one seed for the GPAC tournament and will likely play the number eight seed, Mount Marty, who the Broncos beat 7-2 on April 9.

“We need to improve on our nerves. A lot of us get really nervous, so we need to work on having confidence in ourselves and believing that we can do this and we are good enough to win the GPAC tournament,” Brown said.

The men’s team suffered their first GPAC loss of the season Tuesday night against Doane. The men’s team is comprised of mainly underclassmen, with only two seniors: Burns and Jerod Fox.

Before conference play, the men competed against a challenging field of teams, including both NCAA schools and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) ranked teams. The Broncos are awaiting postseason play with an overall record of 11-7 and a 4-1 GPAC record.

“It’s been pretty good so far — we have a very young group. Jerod and I are the only seniors on the team and everyone else is a sophomore or freshman. We have done pretty solid for the talent we have this year. We have had a lot of good competition that we have played. We’ve played tough schools, a lot of DII schools and a couple of teams that are ranked NAIA-wise. We have gotten to travel a lot, so that is always a lot of fun to do with the team. We have had a decent amount of matches and a decent amount of success and a lot of confidence going into conference play,” Burns said.

Sophomores Carter Mason and Adnan Mehmedovic have the top two singles spots for the men’s team. Both stepped into big roles last year as first-year students, as Mason just received GPAC Player for the Week of April 8-14.

Burns mentioned that of the four years he has been at Hastings, this will be the hardest year for the team to win the GPAC tournament since two other schools, Doane and Midland, have a lot of senior talent.

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams will travel to Fremont, Nebraska, on April 26, to play for the GPAC tournament title.