St. Michael’s students cheering on the Men’s tennis team in their match against Franklin Pierce on March 26. (Photo by Alexander Foy)

Matt Gianni | Staff Writer | mgianni@mail.smcvt.edu

To finish off the season, the Men’s Tennis team faced Franklin Pierce on April 26. Though the team lost 4-1, a highlight for the men’s season was their game against Franklin Pierce on March 26, when they experienced their highest spectator turnout in recent history.

The upper level track of the Ross-Tarrant Sports Center was lined with a small, but mighty group of fans who roared as the players of the SMC Men’s Tennis team were announced out on the court below before the start of the match on March 26. The crowd was mostly made up of the Men’s Rugby and Women’s Tennis teams, alongside parents of players who lived close enough to make the drive. While other students filtered in and out over the course of the match, these were the fans that made up the St. Mike’s cheering section over the course of the four-and-a-half-hour match. 

The match started out strong in favor of St. Michael’s, winning 2 out of 3 doubles matches against their opponents, Franklin Pierce University. Excitement in the crowd grew, with a small roar erupting each time one of the three pairs of Knights scored a point. This trend continued once singles began. With four separate matches on each of the courts, fans would often burst into cheers for a point scored in one match, while the other matches were in the midst of rallying. It would soon become apparent that the Franklin Pierce players were not fond of this  arrangement. 

Franklin Pierce was the 2021 runner up in the NE-10 conference; with multiple returning all-conference players. Head coach St. Michael’s coach, Jason Hammel, reflected that even though the knights lost the match 4-3, he was proud of the team’s performance.

“We’ve been spending the last three years developing guys that kind of went overlooked by other programs and helping them reach their full potential,” Hammel said. “I thought we performed really well… for us to come in and push them [Franklin Pierce] as far as we did was such an overachievement. I was very pleasantly surprised at how the depth of our roster performed, they really played above any expectation.” 

At the height of the match, approximately 50 fans were present. This was the largest turnout for a tennis match this season, according to Hammel. 

“What I don’t think most students understand is that Tarrant should be the biggest advantage in college tennis,” he said. “There are almost no colleges with a circular stadium… we should be able to put 200 people in here and have it feel like a professional sporting event. 50 people in here felt like they were 200 people, just imagine what 200 people would feel like.” 

Men’s Tennis Captain Josh Weiss ‘23 reflected on his team’s progress over the past three years. 

“It was one of those matches that the older guys like me have been waiting for since we were recruits, hearing about these team’s and how good they are,” Weiss said. It was really gratifying because our system [as a team] is a lot about improvements over time.” 

As for the fans, Weiss thought the “typical college athletics atmosphere” was really nice to have in the gym, while captain Jason Boucher ‘23 didn’t really notice the effects of the crowd until after his singles match. 

“I don’t really remember a ton of what was going on around me during the match, but watching was super fun and super intense,” Boucher said. “Having the crowd at home definitely helps though, it was just such a blast.” 

Ian Trance ‘23 and Adrien Harwood ‘23 from the men’s rugby team were mesmerized by the match. 

“I’d never been to a tennis game before, but that was pretty suspenseful, and it was good to watch all the guys play,” Harwood said. However, the pair was shocked at the opposition, their cheers met by the opposing players. 

“I personally believe that some of the Franklin Pierce players took it a little heavy,” Trance said. “We weren’t really doing much except for cheering on our team, and it seemed to cause a rift.” 

Despite the tension, both rugby players were surprised by how much they enjoyed the overall experience and said they would attend more matches in the future. 

“I feel like our guys really appreciated having us there though, and they really fed off of having us all there supporting them,” Harwood added. 

Both Boucher and Hammel have been trying to pull more students to matches as of late by raffling off gift cards, and even a television, money they spent out of their own team budget. “…And spreading the idea of ‘if you come to my match and I’ll come to yours’ is what our coach and social media manager are trying to [encourage],” Boucher said.

Overall, Hammel is hopeful in his efforts to bring in more fans in the future. “There’s no other team that can create this atmosphere in all the NE-10… you can’t replicate it… I’m hoping that we can get two or three events a year like this where we can get 100 or 150 people here. Once you get here, you get hooked and it’s fun,” Hammel said.