Since the last time the Goshen College men’s tennis team defeated Indiana Wesleyan University, six years ago, the Leafs were 0-8 with a combined score of 9 to 48.Last Wednesday evening, under the lights of Goshen’s tennis complex, Filippo Gallo won a decisive third-set tiebreak and changed that all.
With his comeback 3-6, 6-3, (10-6) win in a super-tiebreak, Gallo scored the fourth and clinching point for the Maple Leafs in a massive 4-3 upset of the perennial powerhouse IWU.
“I was so happy,” Gallo said. “I was thinking about what an achievement it was. We’d also come back in the doubles with Insee, so I said this is the moment to give my best and that’s what I did.”
In their 20 recorded meetings with IWU before Wednesday, Goshen was 3-17 and had never won by a larger margin than 4-3. But fresh off the heels of a 5-2 victory over Spring Arbor University earlier that day, the Leafs came into the match feeling upbeat.
“We were confident,” said Evan Atkinson, the Maple Leafs men’s and women’s head coach. “We knew they were a little different than they have been in the past…Looking through their matchups, I felt really confident in our guys’ ability to come through.”
The turnaround from last time these two teams met — IWU won handily, 6-1 — is at least in part due to Goshen’s recruitment of international players. Every one of the six scoring players for the Leafs is an international student, and each is from a different country.
“How serious international athletes take tennis is evident,” Atkinson said. He described how he likes to branch out all over the globe to “eliminate cliques” and bring different approaches to the court. He’s serious about branching out — the top six players are from Argentina, Croatia, Ecuador, Italy, Switzerland and Thailand.
“I think Goshen’s the perfect place for all those cultures to get together, because everyone’s really accepting of differences, and everybody’s willing to learn,” Atkinson said.
After winning their next four games, the Leafs fell Tuesday to Grace College, who received votes in the national rankings, and #25 Marian University. They are now 5-4 overall, boasting a 5-3 Crossroads League record.
The women’s team pulled off two huge victories this past week as well. On Saturday, they swept University of St. Francis 7-0. This was the team’s first win since September 11, 2020 — nearly two years ago — and their first win over USF since 2009.
Mere days later, the team upset Grace College in arguably their biggest win in a decade.
On Tuesday afternoon, just hours after losing to Marian University 4-0, the Maple Leafs secured a 5-2 victory over the Lancers. Two-set wins from Carmen Aliaga, Sude Aytekin, Meaghan Godzisz and Sarah Hinshaw propelled Goshen past Grace and into the Crossroads League tournament for the first time since its 2011 inception.
Clinching a tournament spot wasn’t the only milestone set by Goshen’s victory. Tuesday marks the first time since 2006 that the Leafs defeated Grace. That 2006 squad was also the last Goshen team to record multiple conference wins in the same season — until this year. Goshen is now 2-6 in the Crossroads League and 2-7 overall.
“I was proud of everybody’s fight, and seeing the little things matter was just great,” Atkinson said of the women’s team. He stressed the importance of a family dynamic among both the men’s and women’s teams, and credited the team’s close bond to their various successes this year.
Gallo agreed. “Right away, when I got here, I met Pedro [Scattolon], Matija [Margetic], and Coach Evan. Insee too — they all helped me feel comfortable right away and find my way around.” Hearing this, Akarapan jumped in with a smile on his face, saying “I’ve been here three years, and this year is something very special. All people from different places — all very, very good people all add up to the team, on the tennis court and off it. I’m very grateful for this year.”
With the Crossroads League tournament starting next week, both the men and women have one match remaining in the regular season. The teams play their Senior Day matches at home on Friday against Judson University. Matches start at 2:00 p.m.