By Evan Slavit
In Michael Kanner’s ‘11 freshman year, he roomed with eventual basketball team captain, Drew Goldstein ‘11. They were both competitive people, and knowing Kanner was not part of a varsity athletic team, Goldstein mockingly bet Kanner that he couldn’t make Union’s tennis team.
Kanner never imagined that this would lead to a four year varsity career that included some of the best memories of his college experience.
“I didn’t expect to win that bet,” said Kanner. “It seems surreal to me that we will both be attending the Senior Awards Dinner together four years later.”
While Kanner has accomplished a lot, his four years were not without a few complications. After playing nine matches as a freshman, Kanner only competed in one match his sophomore year. Kanner grew tired of the lack of leadership on the team and almost left altogether.
It was his junior year when things started to turn around.
“I grew up a lot that year,” he said. “I learned that I was not playing an individual sport. Even though tennis players don’t pass each other the ball, at the end of the day we still win and lose together.”
Coupled with his newfound attitude, the tennis team took off with the great leadership of captain Sam Ringel ‘10.
“Sam made us work. Actually, Sam made us want to work. It made us feel like we had a chance to do something more. It made us feel like we always had a chance to win. I’d like to believe we have taken that same mentality into this past season.”
Prior to the start of the spring season this year, Kanner and his teammates received an e-mail from their head coach. They were told Division II Merrimack College was interested in scheduling a match with them, and he wanted to make sure the team knew the challenge that lay ahead of them.
Expecting to be trounced, Kanner and the team pushed Merrimack to the brink, losing 6-3. Kanner picked up two of those three wins. He won the first with a dominating 8-1 victory with longtime doubles partner Saul Kurtz ’11 at number two doubles. Kanner then rode the momentum to win a difficult three-set singles match.
After the match, Kanner was awarded the Liberty League performer of the week. It was the first time anyone on the team has been honored by the league since 2008.
“I was uncomfortable accepting that award. It didn’t feel right to be recognized when the team didn’t win.”
Probably the highlight of Kanner’s season came a week later against Division I Holy Cross. It was the first time Union had faced a Division I opponent in its history. While they lost, they were still able to pull out two matches to make the score a respectable 7-2. Faced with a tough opponent for the second time in a week, Kanner stepped up his game again, collecting both of Union’s victories.
“I should have gone D-I,” Kanner says jokingly. “But, seriously I won both of those matches in long tiebreakers. They were definitely my most difficult matches in my four-year career. Also, plenty of credit should go to Saul. I never would have been able to pull out that doubles match without him.”
Even off the court Kanner has some interesting stories to share. His freshman year Kanner financed part of the team’s trip to Vassar College for an away match.
The tennis team was given a van without an EZ pass and so Kanner fronted the dollar for the tolls.
“I’ve always wanted to contribute to this team anyway possible,” Kanner jokes. “I was obviously reimbursed the dollar, but it is still one of the funnier moments I had with the tennis team.”
When asked about other funny moments, Kanner mentions the first time the team competed against Saint Lawrence in the Liberty League tournament. It happened at St. Lawrence’s campus center. After finishing their meal, St. Lawrence had refused to accept the credit card Union had given the team to pay for their meal. After some tense negotiations, St. Lawrence agreed to bill Union for the meal.
“I remember being nervous about the match, but after that debacle I realized things couldn’t get much worse.”
In fact, they got a lot better. Kanner won his singles match 6-0, 6-1 and he won his doubles match with Matthew Goodnow ’11 8-2. Even better, the team won 9-0.
“It’s amazing how sometimes outside distractions can make you more focused,” he said.
This is something Kanner and his teammates experienced again this season. Playing their last home game of the season against RPI, the tennis team had the best fan turnout they have had in years. Students lined the fence, cheering on the team. All the energy lead to one of Kanner’s more dominating matches. He won his match 6-0, 6-0 and the team squeaked out a 5-4 victory.
“I just want to thank everyone who came out. That was easily one of the most amazing experiences I had on this campus. I now understand why the hockey team has done so well at home games these past few seasons,” he said.
Kanner’s final match of his career also came against RPI at the Liberty League Tournament. The team won 6-3 and Kanner got a little emotional, reflecting on the relationships he developed with his teammates. Kanner was one of the four seniors in the starting lineup this season.
“These guys became like my family. I’ve watched these guys grow up both as tennis players and as people. They have always been there for me; and as we graduate, I know we will all remain friends for years to come,” he said.
To think, this all spawned from a silly bet he made freshman year with his roommate.