February 4, 2011

Competition heats up in first matches of the season

Men’s and women’s tennis are at different points in their seasons, but both have the same goal: win. After a 7–0 shutout of Chicago State on January 27th where not a single match went to three sets, the men’s team is preparing for two matches in two days starting tonight in a match against Case in Notre Dame, IN. The second match takes place tomorrow afternoon at home against Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“The matches are just starting now, so you don’t know too much about the opposing teams,” head coach Marty Perry said. “Case always plays us tough on the men’s side, and we had two tough matches last year with them. This is the highest ranked team Wisconsin-Whitewater has had in a while.”

“Case and Whitewater are our first D-III matches of the year, and I have high expectations of our team,” fourth-year Will Zhang added. “Case played us tough last year at [the UAA Championship] when we beat them, so I’m looking for them to fight hard again.”

The men’s team has benefited from some early season match experience that will likely help them going into the D-III part of the schedule.

“So far the season has been good,” fourth-year Kunal Pawa said. “Our first match was very close and we could have won. Our last match was convincing. This weekend sets the tone for the rest of the season, and it’s important we get off to a good start since we have a very competitive team.”

“Our matches against D-I teams have helped prepare for our tough schedule,” Zhang continued. “It’s very early in the season still, but I think we have the potential to have a great year. We need to learn to mentally stay in matches better and maintain our intensity when playing tougher teams.”

The team’s youthfulness is perhaps the most crucial determinant of the early season. Four of the six singles players in the lineup against Chicago State were first- or second-years.

With the men, we have some new players,” Perry said. “They just played their first duals match, so they’re getting used to the format. It’s a deep team, and there are lots of guys fighting for the lineup. It’s a pretty competitive environment.”

“The five new freshmen brought in this year could make a big difference and hopefully help us win a few matches we wouldn’t have last year,” second-year Harrison Abrams said. ”Everyone seems to be well prepared for this weekend and the rest of the season, and many of us are playing pretty well right now.”

The women’s team has not played yet in 2011. Their first match is against Case tonight in Notre Dame, and their second is at home against Ball State Sunday afternoon.

“I think we’re ready for the season to start. We’ve been working hard during practice, and we’ve added conditioning workouts to improve our fitness,” third-year Jennifer Kung said. “I think we’re all excited to finally start playing matches this weekend.”

“We’re the higher ranked team, so we’re trying to get our D-III competition off to a strong start,” Perry added. “Our schedule is middle- and back-loaded. We’ve just been competing amongst the team and practicing. We want to do well this weekend and build on that.”

But what the team lacks in matches played they make up for in experience, as they only have one first-year player.

“We did not lose anyone from last year to this year, so we are starting off the season confident that we have a solid, experienced team,” third-year Tiffany Nguyen said. “We have been practicing and conditioning a lot, so we are all very excited about this coming season and expect to do well this weekend.”

“We graduated one member, so [we] are returning with almost our whole team,” third-year Carmen Vaca Guzman added. “Our team has always been very close and this year will be no different.”

To take advantage of that solidarity, the team looks forward to its first official match.

“I think our whole team is playing well right now,” Kung concluded. “We try to give each other advice about what to work on and what areas of our games need to be better. Everyone’s working hard, but it’s tough to be certain of how well we’re playing until we actually start playing matches.”