Returning to the court for the first time in nearly three weeks, men’s tennis couldn’t recover from poor starts and lost to Middle Tennessee State 6-0 Sunday.
Head Coach Mel Purcell believed the Racers stood a chance against the Blue Raiders, who had already competed earlier in the day.
“(MTSU) played Memphis first, and we were hoping to catch them a little tired,” Purcell said. “We didn’t play that well and they were just better players at the time.”
Due to the Blue Raiders’ match earlier in the day as well as having lighting concerns, the two teams agreed to limit the match to singles competition.
While the Racers were unable to pick up a set in their loss to MTSU, Purcell said there was progress from junior Max McLean.
“Out of all the matches he was the most competitive one,” Purcell said.
McLean, who is in his third season with the Racers, has seen his role on the team change from last year.
“Max has normally been playing at the No. 4 spot in the past,” Purcell said. “When you move up to the No. 2 spot, the matches are tougher.”
With the harder competition, the adjustment to the position has been a slow one for McLean. Out of eight matches this season, McLean has yet to come away with a victory.
“It has been a difficult change because the opponents hit the ball back more consistent, and that has been the hardest part to adapt to,” McLean said.
His closest opportunity for victory came at the beginning of the season against Tennessee Tech. After losing the opening set, McLean rallied to force a tiebreaker, but he came out on the losing end.
“I’ve been working hard in practice and I feel that I have been improving a lot with this competition,” McLean said. “It will help me in the long run to make me play better.”
McLean’s improvement, though, has been hindered by an injury that forced him to miss a match.
“I hurt my ankle at the beginning of the year, and I’ve just been trying to come back from it,” he said. “I feel like I am getting better each day and it feels nice to be on the court.”
McLean’s return to form is something Purcell is glad to see as the team approaches conference play.
“We just need to get him healthy,” Purcell said. “Max is the type of player that needs his quickness and it seems to be holding him back.”
In his match against MTSU, McLean was close to taking a one-set lead.
“I was leading 30-15 and he was on second serve and I shanked the ball back into the bottom of the net,” McLean said.
His opponent took advantage of the error and rallied back to win the game and the set 7-5.
“That was the big point that swung momentum because if I won that point, I probably would have won the set,” McLean said.
With momentum against him, his opponent swept the second set and the match 6-0.
“I can only take positives out of that first set,” McLean said. “He was a tough opponent, and I hope that it can help me in our upcoming matches.”
After playing Chattanooga today, Murray State will stay on the road to open conference play at Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State this weekend.
“This is a tough road trip, and I would love to get a win or win them all,” Purcell said. “I really just want to see improvement.”
The Racers face Tennessee Tech at 11 a.m. Saturday and follow up Sunday with Jacksonville State.
Story by Tom Via, Staff writer