Ethan Koeneman ’26 (front) and doubles partner Augusto Ghidini ’26 against Principia College on February 25, 2023, at the Collett Tennis Center. Photo by Elijah Greene ’25.

“Right now, our focus is on our doubles play,” said Head Tennis Coach Daniel Bickett in last week’s issue of The Bachelor. On the team’s spring break trip to Florida, Wabash went 6-6 over four matches in doubles play. And over the course of the season, Bickett has struggled to find consistency in his doubles pai- rings, fielding some 26 different combinations on the season so far.

But maybe—just maybe—the days of doubles dilemmas are over. The Little Giants welcomed Hanover College to Crawfordsville on Saturday, March 18, defeating the Panthers in a dominant 8-1 victory. It was the first time Wabash had beaten Hanover, who play in the highly competitive Heartland Collegiate Athletics Conference, since January 2017. It also moved the Little Giants to 8-4 on the season, two more wins than the team picked up in the entirety of 2022. But more significantly, Wabash won all three doubles matches, and did so in tremendous style.

“It was a good doubles match across the board,” said Bickett. “And with how good our singles are, getting that 3-0 or 2-1 lead is really tough for other teams to overcome.”

The weekend didn’t go off without a hitch. Liam Grennon ’24, who usually plays #1 doubles alongside Cole Borden ’24, was unable to play against Hanover, forcing Bickett to adjust his lineups.

“With Liam [Grennon] out, we actually didn’t have one of our normal doubles lineups this weekend,” said Bickett. “So, we were looking for guys to step up, especially because we had our #2 team playing at #1 and our #3 team playing at #2.”

In the #1 doubles match, Alvaro Alonso-Sanchez ’23 and Augusto Ghidini ’26 stepped in in place of the usual Borden-Grennon lineup. Up against Hanover’s junior duo of Joey Keal and Charley Williams, the Little Giants pair lost the first game but quickly put themselves in a strong position. With Grennon on the sidelines giving advice, Alonso-Sanchez and Ghidini coasted to an 8-5 victory.

“I think the most important thing in doubles is being aggressive and playing the net, and I have just tried to do what coach tells me to do,” said Ghidini. “When returning, we want to take advantage of the net and put pressure on the opponents, and I think we did that this weekend.”

The other two doubles matchups went just as smoothly for Wabash. In the #2 match, Ethan Koeneman ’26 and Cole Shifferly ’26 swept to a resounding 8-2 victory, while in the #3 match Borden and Blake Discher ’26 dug deep to eke out an 8-6 win.

Something has changed in the Wabash tennis camp, and at the heart of it is a newfound focus on doubles. Despite all the inconsistency and experimentation of the season so far, Bickett seems to believe that he has finally found a winning formula.

“I think we have our three teams now,” said Bickett. “There may be some jostling for position, but for the most part I don’t think we’ll be moving a lot of things around. We have our three best combinations, and now it’s just a case of finding which positions they will be most successful in.”

A big part of Bickett’s new formula is chemistry. Like in any team sport, there is more to finding the perfect tennis pairing than just picking the best players. Doubles needs teams, not individuals, and one of the strongest pairings on the Little Giants roster is the Koeneman-Shifferly duo.

“After we lost the first match in Florida, Coach [Bickett] put me with Shifferly, who is one of my fraternity brothers,” said Koeneman. “I’ve been playing with him since I was about 10 years old, and we are a really powerful team. We came out [against St. Thomas University], beat a really good team and ever since then we have kept that same lineup.”

That team bond and focus on consistency is exactly what Bickett has been looking for all season. And it is exactly that attitude that he believes his team can harness as the season progresses.

“In doubles, a lot of it comes down to the atmosphere and the energy you can create,” said Bickett. “If you can be loud, if you can be energetic, if you can be fiery—all of those things can make the difference. It’s quick, fast action. And I think that, even though we have been changing the doubles teams around a lot, the biggest thing is that our energy has really picked up, and that’s where we are hitting our stride.”

The Little Giants are looking to carry this energy through to their next match against Roosevelt University on Saturday, March 25. But Roosevelt poses a unique problem: the unknown.

For one, the Roosevelt tennis team has never before played against Wabash. But more strangely, the Lakers, who play in the NAIA-affiliated Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, have themselves only played one competitive match all season.

“Regardless of the opponent, the preparation stays pretty much the same,” said Koeneman. “We are just going to go and play our style of tennis and hope we can execute it.” Bickett echoed the same sentiment.

“At the end of the day, the court is still going to be 78 feet long, 27 feet wide for singles and 36 feet wide for doubles,” said Bickett. “As long as we go in there and play how we want to play, we’ll be hap- py with our performance.”

The match against Roosevelt will be yet another opportunity for the Little Giants to solidify their doubles lineups. And with conference play just around the corner, we will soon see if Wabash’s days of doubles drama are behind them.