The women’s tennis team’s four-game winning streak ended Feb. 6 at the hands of the University of Memphis, while the men’s team lost to both the Indiana University and Citadel Military College.
Players are still adjusting to new NCAA rules and the coaches are trying to emphasize the importance of winning the opening doubles point in matches.
In this year’s format, teams compete in three doubles matches for one team point before they begin the six singles matches for one team point each. The team that wins two doubles matches earns the first of the seven possible team points, and a team guarantees victory by collecting four team points.
This season the winner of the doubles team point has gone on to win the match 13 out of 14 times in Murray State’s men’s and women’s matches. The one exception was a Murray women’s victory over Lipscomb on Feb. 1.
Men’s Head Coach Mel Purcell said familiarity plays a big role in the play of the doubles teams. Knowing where a teammate will be or how the player will handle each shot before it’s made gives a team an advantage. None of the men’s doubles teams have played together before this season.
One duo of senior Max McLean and freshman Will True are beginning to find a rhythm but said they are still a long way from where they want to be.
“I think if we keep playing more doubles and with the competition that we are playing, we’re only going to get better and be ready for the OVC,” McLean said.
In their match against the University of Louisville, the men’s team failed to win a point and lost 7-0, but against Citadel they battled and had opportunities to win. McLean lost his singles matches 6-4 and 7-6.
“It was tough,” McLean said. “He was just able to win the big points and I lost the big points.”
McLean plays the opposing team’s best player for each competition as the No. 1 ranked singles player on the team.
“I know that every time I show up I’m going to have to play my A-game or I’m going to lose so staying focused and playing my best is my main concern,” McLean said.
Purcell said he thinks his team is improving week to week. After receiving two more losses, the men’s record now sits at 0-7.
“Indiana jumped on us real quick but against Citadel we had our chances,” Purcell said. “We are just going to try to turn these negatives into positives.”
As they head into a three-week break, the men’s team plans to focus on its doubles play and the play at the net in particular.
The men’s next match is Feb. 28 when they play Temple University in Memphis, Tenn.
Meanwhile, the women’s team priority is to remain healthy.
During the match against No. 58 University of Memphis, Women’s Head Coach Jorge Caetano had three sick athletes, so he had to adjust his lineups accordingly.
“Unfortunately three of my girls were very sick but we competed well,” Caetano said.
The women’s team lost the opening doubles point and five of the six singles matches.
With eight women on the team, Caetano has been searching for the right combination of women to compete against their opponents.
“All of my girls are about the same level so I try to rotate them and let everyone play,” Caetano said. “It really depends on the matchups as to who will play in the No. 1 spot each week.”
Heading to their next match the women are 4-2 with both losses coming against ranked opponents.
The women face off Feb. 14-15 against Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois University Carbondale at Kenlake State Park.
Story by Blake Bernier, Contributing writer