The Augustana women’s tennis team claimed its 13th-straight NSIC regular season championship after a weekend sweep against the University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State University on April 15-16.
The No. 23 nationally ranked Vikings ended their regular season with a 17-3 overall record and a perfect 11-0 NSIC record.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t look over anybody,” head coach Marc Kurtz said. “There are some teams that have gotten better, and whenever they play us, it’s their big match. They’re ready to give it their all, so we have to be ready.”
The Vikings will look to continue one of their most dominant stretches in the NCAA by going for their 12th-straight NSIC tournament championship on April 21-23 in Sioux Falls.
Heading into the conference tournament, the Augustana women’s team has not lost a conference match since April 19, 2009, when the Minnesota State University Mavericks took down the Vikings.
The final weekend of this year’s regular season started with both the men’s and women’s sides facing off against Northwest Missouri State University. The women fell 4-0 to the No. 19 nationally ranked Bobcats, marking their third loss of the season — all against nationally ranked opponents.
The men fell 6-1 to the No. 11 nationally ranked Bobcats, ending their season with an 8-10 overall record and an 0-4 MIAA record.
Injuries plagued the men’s team, with seniors Cade Damgaard and Nicholas LaPoint going down for the season as the team’s No. 2 and 3 starters.
“Two starters being out might not be a huge deal to some sports, but that’s one third of our starting lineup,” senior Tyson Cowger said. “So many people like freshman Clayton Poppenga and sophomore Christian Cortinas, who usually might not get to see the court, were asked to take on bigger roles this year. Luckily, Henry [Dornbusch, a sophomore,] was always reliable at the one spot. In all of our biggest matches this year, Henry was the most dependent in terms of winning matches.”
Dornbusch ended the season with a 13-5 record. He maintained the No. 1 starter spot the entire season and was the only player who stayed in their position the whole season.
“He’s our top player,” Kurtz said. “He’s competitive with all the top guys from the schools in our conference. He’s gotten a lot better since his freshman year, and I think he’s still getting better. Then, he and Cade in doubles have been very strong, and they’re the first team we’ve had nationally ranked.”
On the women’s side, junior Florentia Hadjigeorgiou has played the same role as Dornbusch. The NSIC Preseason Player of the Year, Hadjigeorgiou is 14-3 at the No. 1 spot, and she is the only player to stay in that spot the whole season.
The women will square off in the first round of the conference tournament with the same Minnesota Duluth team they beat 7-0 in their final regular season match. The match is set for 2 p.m. on April 21 in Sioux Falls.
While the women’s team is preparing for the conference tournament, the men’s team is already looking ahead to next season.
“We’re losing three starters: Damgaard, LaPoint and myself,” Cowger said. “Henry’s become a national force in just two years, so his next two years will be exciting. [Sophomore] Joseph Plachy has been the other starter for the last two years, and he’ll do a good job stepping into a leadership role to carry the existing momentum. Next year, I think the team should step up into the middle of the MIAA, and in two years, be competing for a conference title.”
Cowger said that in his four years, he has seen the team ascend from a team with minimal funding and no conference to a team with resurfaced courts, a conference home, higher-rated recruits and a newfound confidence.
“The program has changed a lot in four years, but I’m proud of where I’m leaving and confident they’ll only get better in the next couple of years,” Cowger said.
Seth is a graduate student at Augustana University. He currently serves as the sports editor.
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