It’s been a little while since my inaugural men’s tennis update, but I have once again stepped “off the court” (thanks to vucommodores.com for the clever blog title) to comment on the happenings of our team. Our first road test of the season brought us out west to Palo Alto, Calif., home of Stanford University, Facebook, and a couple of recent Vanderbilt tennis alumni
Cloudless blue skies and 60 degree weather (no wonder Andrew Luck stayed) were pleasant departures from the gloomy Nashville of late, but the weekend provided as many highs and lows as the drive through downtown San Francisco. It was very nice, however, to get to see former men’s player Scott Lieberman and women’s player Catherine Newman who both graduated this past year. Scott is living and working in San Francisco these days, and Catherine is in a master’s program at Stanford. They both found time to come out and watch us play, and everyone enjoyed catching up with the two of them.
We opened up against a very tough Nebraska team on Saturday. After taking two of the three doubles matches to clinch the lone doubles point, we found ourselves in a dogfight. Three hours later Nebraska walked away with a 5-2 decision. It was a difficult loss to swallow, but we had no choice but to put it behind us and regroup for a talented Santa Clara team. Sunday proved to be just as grueling of a day, albeit with a very different result. A slow start in doubles left us trailing 1-0 heading into singles. But just as Nebraska had done to us the day before, we dug in and took four of the six singles matches, coming away with a victory by one of the narrowest margins I’ve ever seen in college tennis. With the overall match tied 3-3, it all came down to senior Adam Baker. His third set alone went back and forth for nearly an hour until we found ourselves cheering him on through a tiebreaker that would decide the overall match. Adam kept his composure and handled the nerves, taking the tiebreaker and giving us our first ranked win of the season in Santa Clara. It wasn’t always pretty, but coming away with a win like that showed a level of resilience and a toughness that we will certainly continue to build on.
Less than a week later we stepped back on the court to take on in-state rival Memphis at the Currey Tennis Center. We knew going in that this was not the same Memphis we had seen in years past; they had just crushed a very good Oklahoma State team and were loaded with freshmen talent. We couldn’t count on a victory just because we were the better team, we would have to earn it. That’s exactly what we did. Doubles started slow, but we managed to sweep the three matches and entered singles with a 1-0 lead. This was certainly an opportunity to get complacent and expect Memphis to roll over, but the discipline and focus we have worked on all year was and is too deeply engrained. We continued to show Memphis what tennis is like in the SEC; no one let up, and we walked away with a 7-0 shutout win. Also, special congratulations to Blake Bazarnik for earning SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance against the Tigers!
We are now 4-1 on the year, and coming up on the toughest part of the non-conference schedule. We head up to Ann Arbor this weekend to take on Washington on Saturday and Michigan on Sunday. These are two top-25 teams in no. 22 Michigan and no. 23 Washington and represent an enormous opportunity for our team and our program to make a statement. The match against Michigan will be televised on the Big Ten Network on tape-delay Feb. 27 at 9 a.m. CT, so be sure to check us out if you have the chance! We are on the road this weekend and next when we play Northwestern in Chicago, but we will return home to take on Indiana on Friday, February 25th, and North Carolina on Sunday the 27th. If all goes well, my next update should include a pair of top-25 wins! GO DORES!