The Racers will be landing in the bird’s nest Sept. 20-23 to take on the Louisville Cardinals in their first match of the season.
The men’s tennis team ended its season last spring with a 4-0 loss to Eastern Kentucky University in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. They finished with a final record of 5-13 overall, 3-5 in the OVC.
In its last match against the Cardinals, Murray State lost 0-7. The closest game was played by freshman Aleks Mitric with a 6-2, 7-5 loss against Luis Elizondo.
Mitric, a sophomore from London, England, will be playing his second year for the Racers. Last season, he had a singles record of 2-5 and a 0-3 doubles record. This fall, he is joined by his brother, freshman Nik Mitric, who will be playing his first season at Murray State.
Alongside Nik, the team has one other new player. Junior Adam Taylor will be playing his first tournament as a Racer, transferring from Tyler Junior College.
Head Coach Mel Purcell said the new players are going to fit in well with the team.
“These new kids are going to be really good players,” Purcell said. “And it’s always a good thing to see your freshmen grow to be more experienced players.”
In his last season at Tyler, Taylor had an 8-6 overall record, 5-1 away from home.
Purcell said he is confident in the fitness of his team, which could give them a potential edge against Louisville.
“We’ve been doing a lot of running,” he said. “And we’ve been seeing the conditioning coach. It’s really important for us to be in shape. That’s our main focus right now.”
Even with high fitness levels, the Cardinals pose a challenge, with a 16-8 overall record last year against teams like Clemson, Virginia Tech and Xavier. Their team is composed of eight freshmen and six returners, making them a young and potentially inexperienced roster.
Purcell said this tournament will be a chance for players to get the experience they need to move on to conference competition.
“It’s really hard to tell at this point how the tournament will go down,” he said. “They get to play a few matches and some doubles against other schools. We’re just trying to really prepare and use this as an experience. We have our sights on the OVC.”
Having a bigger roster than Murray State, Louisville can send half of their players to one tournament while another half plays the Racers, making it difficult to know if they will have a similar singles and doubles strategy from last year.
Purcell said only time will tell what and whom they are playing against.
“You have a lot of new players and some division,” he said. “So it’s really hard to strategize on how to play based on the year before.”
This is a chance to get the new players acquainted with the swing of college competition and for the returners to get warmed up for future tournaments and the OVC championship.
Purcell said he just wants to show up as a good team.
“We’re just going to go up there with our Racer shirts on and just play hard.” he said.
Carly Besser, Staff writer