Young team readies for UT-Chattanooga

Carly Besser
Staff writer

 

After wrapping up the fall schedule at the Murray State Invitational, the tennis team is preparing to compete against its first opponent of the spring schedule, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“It feels great to be out here hitting and getting ready for another year,” Head Coach Mel Purcell said. “It’s been fun getting to work with new players and preparing them for spring.”

The fall matches serve the purpose of getting the Racers ready for the spring season, which is where it really counts. Fall matches are considered scrimmage matches and spring is when matches count toward the team’s record.

“It’s good that our younger guys got to play a lot of tennis in the fall and get experience,” Purcell said. “They worked hard and they’re getting used to playing good competition.”

Recently the Racers have shown hopeful advantage in the singles category with freshman Daniel Heibel, who left the Murray State Invitational with two singles victories as well as a doubles victory with sophomore partner Dylan Gerlach.

Senior Jose Berardo earned another doubles victory, alondside sophomore Arthur Valle. Freshman Aleks Mitric joined Heibel and Valle, leaving the tournament with a singles victory.

Chattanooga has only one freshman on the roster and recently competed against OVC opponent Tennessee Tech and defeated them 6-1. Approximately half of Murray State’s team is composed of freshmen this season and Purcell said there are setbacks to having such a young team.

“The greatest thing about having freshmen on the team is they become sophomores,” he said. “But some of our former players from last year are going to help them out a lot. I’m not expecting too much but they are showing hard work.”

To be fierce competitors, Purcell said the Racers need to improve on the chemistry of doubles teams as well as revamping singles play.

“Doubles now is our weakest spot because we really haven’t played any,” he said. “We’re working on it, but we only have had two or three matches to improve.”

Statistically, the Racers won 29 percent of their singles matches and 30 percent of their doubles matches in 2011. During the same season, Chattanooga finished with 37 percent of singles matches won and 40 percent of doubles matches won.

The Racers will have a home-court advantage with the added comfort of playing only 15 minutes from campus, which will make up for lost time when Murray had only one home match during the fall season.

The Racers have developed a rivalry with Chattanooga when they dropped a 6-1 decision to them last March, and the team is prepared for the intense and difficult competition the Mocs can bring to the table.

“They always have pretty good teams,” Purcell said. “We haven’t beaten them in a while. You just have to make sure your guys are ready. Every team plays differently.”

The Racers face the Mocs at 11:30 a.m. today at Kenlake-State Resort Park in Aurora, Ky.

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