By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
Asbury’s tennis team is coming off a fantastic year that saw both the men and women’s teams make appearance in national tournaments. For the men, six of the team were all-conference selections; sophomores Julian Tellez, Shane Mustor and Aquille Trotman and seniors Joshua Abraham, Ty Abraham and Deuce Gibson. For the women, junior Caitlin Conyers was named KIAC player of the year and lined up as the Eagles number one player in the team’s first ever appearance at the NAIA national tournament.
“I feel like there is more pressure on us, but it is a good pressure,” said senior Jessie Dial. “We are truly working towards something great. We are more motivated than ever. We have been careful that we don’t assume that we will make it again, but we know that we have to earn our spot.”
“I’ve seen a new determination on the court and it seems like everyone, from our #1 player to our #13, wants to work hard and get better.”
It will take a lot to reach the heights of last season for this year’s team, but both teams are fortunate that such a strong group is returning this year. Neither team had any graduating seniors.
“Our coach has done a good job teaching strategy and helping us learn to beat players who we aren’t necessarily ‘supposed’ to beat,” said senior Sarah Beth Alford. “We have a certain mental toughness and unified determination that other teams lack. Our coach really emphasizes looking for, and exposing our opponents weaknesses, and playing into that.”
But with as much as there is to prove this year, neither team has had a lot of chances to show it out on the court. An early tournament for both teams was set for August 27, but the match was cancelled. A tournament at Campbellsville University this past weekend on Sept. 10 was shortened due to rain. For the women’s team, conference play won’t begin until the spring.
“I think that we need to play a lot of teams that challenge us,” said Dial. “We need to continue to work on our endurance in order so that we can keep going to beat the best teams.”
While the men will have a chance to get back to business on Sept. 17 with matches against Capital University, the women’s team will have to wait until the regional tournament on Sept. 22.
“[Regionals] gives us the chance to play some really challenging competition,” said Alford. “It also gives coach the opportunity to see us play against strong players, which is helpful for him to make the best line-up.”
Last year, regionals were a big proving ground for the Eagles. Only Gibson made it past the tournament’s first round for the men, while Conyers and Alford represented the women’s team in the second round.
“I’ve seen a new determination on the court and it seems like everyone, from our #1 player to our #13, wants to work hard and get better,” said Alford “[There are] lots of great attitudes and encouragement on the team, and I can honestly say this is the best our team has looked this early in the year.”