The men’s and women’s tennis teams are back in action and on the road this weekend to Houston and Arkansas respectively.
This past weekend, the men fell 0-4 to the nationally ranked Baylor Bears in a clinched outcome that left four matches unfinished including senior Nico Agritelley and sophomore Josh Sheehy’s doubles match that was cut short with the Bears holding a slight edge at 4-3. Agritelley said that he was able to see several of the matches get close at several points, and head coach Hutton Jones expressed pride in his players who fought for each individual point till the very end, even in a clinch clinch situation where the match is called early on.
“It’s rare for me to ever not want to finish,” Coach Jones said, “I want everyone to have the chance to finish their individual contests.”
Playing nationally ranked opponents is no new thing for the tennis program, as they’ve faced top-ten teams like Texas and 2016 Sweet 16 qualifier SMU.
“We’re playing the highest level of tennis we can play and we’re hanging in there in the matches. We just need to get better, and that’s what we’re going to do our best to do,” Jones said.
On Friday, the men face Rice University and Prairie View A&M in a double-header in Houston.
“We can beat anybody on any given day. We just have to stay mentally tough and believe in ourselves,” Agritelley said. “Rice’s ranking is just a number next to their name, and when we play Prairie View A&M we have to have the same mindset as if we were playing a top, nationally ranked team. They are in the same position we are in when we play a top-tier team. They have nothing to lose against us and they will be coming at us hard.”
While the men travel across the state, the women will be making their way to Searcy and Conway, Arkansas to compete against Harding on Friday, Arkansas State on Saturday and Central Arkansas on Sunday.
Last Thursday at home, the Wildcats shut down former NCAA DII rivals Tarleton, 6-1, and UT-Permian Basin, 7-0. The women are currently on a four-win streak, and hope to extend that streak on the road this weekend as they begin conference play but will have to overcome the challenge of having two key starters out and returning from injuries. Sophomore Autumn Crossnoe is currently still unable to compete, and junior Lucile Pothier is making her way back from recovery after suffering an ankle injury that occurred during her match several weeks ago against UTEP.
“None of us would have expected that two of us would be on the bench,” Pothier said. “But our team is strong and we are all really close to each other. I think we are more than ready to start our first conference match this weekend.”
Pothier expressed the high level of motivation and drive that the women’s team is having in light of the adversity, and that the biggest strength they have is their spirit as a team. Coach Jones also remains optimistic and confident in his team’s abilities, but says that with having a couple hands tied behind their backs, they’ll have to push themselves to compete to win.
“You can’t reach your capacity unless you allow yourself to be pushed to the next level,” Jones said.
Despite uncontrollable variables and underdog situations, both teams are ready to take on their opponents head-on.