By CHARLIE GRIGSBY – CENTO WRITER
On paper, Centre Men’s Tennis is having a tough year. With three series left in the season, their record sits at 3-12 (1-6 in conference). They’ve won 19 of 56 singles and 11 of 34 doubles matches this year. They sit seventh in the SAA conference standings. This is their season, on paper.
Then again, match results and standings are shallow reflections of a long season. For instance, six of those 12 losses are to Division-II or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) schools.
Those are the schools with indoor courts — and scholarship players — that Centre schedules early season in spite of the cold weather of late February and early March.
Centre’s also missing two starters from its 2013 roster, juniors Parker Lawson and Trey Williamson, who are abroad this semester.
Missing two key players creates holes that underclassmen have to fill, and much of the season has been spent figuring out which six guys work best as a singles lineup, and which doubles pairs have chemistry.
“We had some tinkering the first five [series] of the season,” junior Daniel Miller said. “We had to. We had guys gone, guys get sick.”
These are not so much excuses, as rather explanations for why the Colonels’ record is the way it is. It’s the story that “on paper” does not tell. But paper can describe a situation, and the situation “on paper” appears to be one of necessity.
Of the three opponents left on the schedule, none have any impact on Centre’s SAA record. They are essentially “tune-ups” for a daunting conference tournament where the Colonels will surely face a team they’ve already lost to in the regular season. On paper, Centre Men’s Tennis is struggling, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to play for.
“We’re playing for conference and almost to redeem the first half of the season … There’s definitely a pride element. We want to do well,” Miller said, “but it’s almost like we’re playing with house money.”
Even though the Colonels have at least four series left to play, it’s hard not to look ahead to next season. There’s not a senior on the team. Next year, the current roster will return with the additions of Lawson, Williamson, and any recruits brought in by Coach Matt Vonderbrink.
The sophomores and first-years, who have been constants in the lineup since the start of the season, will return with experience. Next season presents itself as somewhat of an opportunity; it’s a chance to progress as a program.
“We’ve been on an upward trend. We’ve got first-years, sophomores, juniors that will be a year better. Two juniors, which is almost like getting two fantastic recruits, plus any recruits we do get,” Miller said.
With the talent returning, Miller said the Colonels aren’t far from a top-three finish in conference. So yes, it’s easy to envision what the 2015 season has in store, but the focus remains on finishing the last few series as strongly as possible.
After all, Centre’s record may be deceiving, but it does offer a chance to demonstrate growth. The underclassmen have grown up, the chemistry has developed, and lineups have been established.
This group has come a long way since Feb. 15 at Bellarmine University, and this is their chance to prove it.
“There will be more to talk about. We’ve got a chance to show what we can do on an even playing field. We’re excited about the rest of the season, about what we’ve got going forward,” Miller said.
The future of Men’s Tennis presents opportunity. There are scores to settle, momentum to build, yet nothing to lose. Like Miller said, they’re playing with house money. There might not be much to talk about now, but by the end of this season, there will be a chance to talk about improvement.
At the beginning of next season, there will be a chance to talk about potential. At the end of that season, there will be a chance to talk about progression. That’s the story 3-12 will not tell. On paper, Centre Men’s Tennis is in a hole, but they won’t be there for very long.