BY JOHN WYATT – SPORTS SECTION EDITOR
Along with several other springtime sports, the Men and Women’s Tennis team is already well into their season.
So far, the Men had a rough start. They lost their first three matches against the Bellarmine University Knights, the Piedmont College Lions, and the Sewanee University of the South Tigers, setting their current record at 0-3.
At Bellarmine, the Men fell 8-1 against their Division II opponent. The one lone victory came from the number two doubles team of senior Woody Rini and sophomore Logan Henize. The duo defeated Bellarmine’s Jose Legarreta and Zachary Kuo.
At Piedmont, the men put up a close fight, but fell ever so slightly losing 5-4 to Piedmont at Sewanee. After doubles play, the Colonels fell behind 2-1 and couldn’t catch up when they entered singles play. Rini and Henize came away with the doubles win against, while Henize, senior Nathan Stein was a 6-3, 5-7, and 10-3 winner in the number three match while sophomore Caleb Smith came away as a 7-5, 6-3 winner in the number six match.
At the Sewanee match, the Colonels saw their first loss against a conference opponent, falling 8-1. Centre’s lone victory came from Nathan Stein, who won 6-4, 6-3 in the number three singles match.
This past weekend, the men suffered another loss, falling 9-0 in a sweep to the University of Charleston Golden Eagles.
Despite the rough start, the team is confident that they will finish strong and achieve their goal of finishing in the top half of the conference.
“We haven’t won a match yet, but because we’ve been playing such a strong schedule to this point and because we’ve had several key players fighting through some injuries and illnesses, I don’t think our record thus far is an accurate reflection of where the team will be by the end of the season,” senior Danny Miller said.
Miller is not wrong. The Colonels went up against an incredibly difficult schedule. Sewanee, their first conference opponent, are the defending conference champions. Other opponents are not even in the same division, such as Bellarmine who is Division II, and therefore feature scholarship players and heavily-funded programs.
“[These] Division II teams early on provide us with some stiff competition to toughen us up at the beginning of the season. Many times the toughest competition comes in that early part of the season,” sophomore Lucas Brooks said.
Facility limitations also played an important role in the team’s performance as of late, though the team is combatting the disadvantage.
“We did not play that poorly especially considering they have an advantage due to them having indoor courts and have been able to have much more beneficial practices,” Brooks said. “February can be a pretty challenging month with the lack of true indoor courts.”
To make up for this, the team has identified key weaknesses and hindrances from last year and is in the process of bolstering them.
“The Men’s team right now is focusing a lot on conditioning and doubles play,” Miller said. “Partially those are goals borne of necessity; our facilities in Chowan aren’t really big enough or good enough to allow us to run a normal practice, so we have to spend extra time on conditioning.”
“But those also happen to be goals which played into some of the areas our team underperformed in last year, so just because our focuses in practice are limited right now doesn’t mean that they aren’t also useful.”
This team will give us plenty to be proud of as the season rolls on, and they are aware of this.
“This team has a lot to grow on … [but] thanks to a tougher schedule we are improving every day and once we get to the main part of the conference play we will reap the rewards,” Brooks said.