Despite disappointing results over Spring Break, men’s tennis Head Coach Mel Purcell continues to stress the importance of getting better each day.
“Overall, we are competing well and as a coach all I can ask them is to play as hard as they can,” Purcell said. “These matches could have gone either way because we had chances.”
The Racers went 1-3 during the break, which included the opening of conference play against Tennessee Tech.
While Murray State won only two individual games in the losses to the Golden Eagles, Belmont and nonconference opponent Oral Roberts, Purcell believes that the team can make changes to bounce back this weekend.
“We are 1-2 in conference right now, but I feel pretty excited with how we played,” Purcell said. “The guys got better and showed some promise when we earned some wins.”
While one of their wins came by default against Belmont, freshman David Hess pulled out a two-set win Sunday.
“It is good to see a freshman playing well, and that is something we will need later down the road as he progresses,” Purcell said.
In the first set, Hess and his opponent traded games and were forced to play a tiebreaker.
Having lost the game just before the tiebreaker, Hess settled down and took the extra points 7-3 to earn the 7-6 win.
With momentum on his side, Hess made quick work of his opponent to win the final set 6-0.
While Hess was a bright spot for the Racers in their losses, one area of concern is doubles play.
In their losses, the Racers dropped each match with senior Adam Taylor and junior Max McLean losing 8-7 against Tennessee Tech March 15.
“We had our chances to win and we really should have,” Taylor said. “We just made some mistakes and it cost us.”
Purcell said he is concerned with the team’s performances that have put the Racers behind, therefore adding pressure to their singles matches.
“Winning the doubles point makes things much easier because you only have to win three of the six remaining matches,” Purcell said. “We just aren’t getting anything out of No. 2 and No. 3, so we may try a different combination.”
While the team dropped two conference matches, there was a bright moment when the Racers hosted Tennessee State Saturday.
Playing on their home court for the first time this spring, Murray State defeated the Tigers 6-1.
The Racers gained the first point of the day when they won in doubles for only the second time this season.
While sophomore Nicholas Mitric and junior Aleks Mitric won 8-3 in the No. 2 slot, Taylor and McLean had a closer match.
The duo traded matches back and forth with Tennessee State winning the final four games to win 8-5 and gain the point.
With momentum on their side, the Racers took five of the six singles matches against the Tigers.
With Murray State sitting at 1-2 in the conference, Purcell said this weekend’s matchups against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois are crucial.
After falling to both teams 4-3 last season, Purcell believes being at home could give Murray State the edge it needs.
“This (weekend) is going to be the difference if we are going to give ourselves a chance to qualify for the OVC Tournament,” Purcell said. “After losing here at home to Belmont, we will be fired up to defend at home.”
The Racers host SIUE Saturday at the Bennie Purcell Tennis Courts after the women’s match.
Then, the men’s team will host Eastern Illinois Sunday after the women finish playing.
Story by Tom Via, Staff writer