By Danielle Nelson
*This article is posted on The Temple News website.
The men’s and women’s tennis teams will open up their fall season with individual tournaments in preparation for competitive matchups in the newly constructed American Athletic Conference this spring.
Although the women’s team is scheduled to play more conference teams than the men during the spring season, head coach Steve Mauro says the conference teams will play each other during the American Conference Tournament at the end year.
With the release of the schedule, some of the athletes are now eager to get back on campus to begin their practices.
“I can’t wait to get started with all the training, so we can have a remarkable spring,” sophomore Jasmine Merali said.
The women will get two opportunities to individually showcase their skills before the conference matches begins in the spring. The first opportunity comes at the yearly Cissie Leary Invitational from Sept. 21-23. In October, the women will play another three-day tournament in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championship, which will help gauge the Owl’s preparation for the upcoming season in Charlottesville, Va.
On the men’s side of the schedule, they will begin their individual tournaments 130 miles away from Philadelphia, in Annapolis, Md. at the Navy Blue Invitational from Sept. 6-8. Then, they will scurry back up the east coast for a three-day tournament in the UPENN Invitational from Sept. 27-29. The men will participate in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championship from October 17-22.
“Everyone [on] the team is going to treat the tournament matches as serious as if it would be a regular in season match,” said junior Kristian Marquart. “These matches are going to be very important in regards to the spring season. Therefore, the more matches every player plays in these tournaments, the more confident he gets and the more he can improve.”
January will mark the beginning of a new era: a new conference, new opponents, and a brand new season to transform last year’s losing record into a winning season.
“With a slightly renovated team, I think we are going to do much better than we did last year, said Merali. “Since we didn’t perform as good as we wanted to last year, it definitely makes us go into this season even more motivated and more determined. I’m predicting a lot of “W’s” will be showing up on our stats this year.”
However, Mauro is concerned about the fitness of his teams. So to ensure a smooth and successful transition into The American, Mauro and the training staff introduced a training regime in the off season that he says, if the athletes are doing it, improve the team’s conditioning and consistency.
“The players have a specific schedule that the trainer gave them, which has to do with mostly conditioning,” said Mauro. “There are a lot of things in there such as times mile, times two miles.”
The women will open their spring season in Richmond for a three-day tournament starting from Jan. 17-19 at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Invitational, a tournament the women struggled in last year winning one out of three matches. The next match comes in the neighboring state of New Jersey on Jan. 25 against Princeton, who the Owls lost to last year.
A string of home games will follow at Legacy, in which the Owls had a winning home record last year of 4-2. Drexel, Xavier, Fairleigh Dickinson, Stony Brook and Fordham are teams that will play at Legacy throughout the month of February. Based on last year’s record, Xavier will be the toughest non-conference opponent Temple will face after a 20-6 season.
“We have several difficult opponents on the schedule for this spring, said Merali. “Princeton and Penn are typically tough matches, and we are always going back and forth against Xavier. But, I think the hardest matches are [going to] be the conference matches. Since we are playing teams we have never played before, we don’t really know how we are [going to] match up against them.”
There will be seven away games in the month of March, including the longest road trip and the first conference match-ups against Houston and Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas. Judging from their records last year, SMU proves to be the slightly tougher opponent posting a 14- 10 record, one extra win over Houston’s 13-11 record. Temple will travel back to Philadelphia to face their cross-town rivals Penn and begin a one game stint at home against Villanova on March 23.
Temple will face more conference opponents like Rugters, UCONN and non-conference opponents like Hampton, Old Dominion, Binghamton, Georgetown and UMBC in March and April. The women’s final home match of the season will come against Providence on April 6. They will then finish their season with Lehigh University in Bethlehem on April 13.
A very young men’s team will kick-off their season in Richmond for the three-day VCU invitational from Jan. 17-19 for the first time. Then, they will head to Maryland on the weekend of Jan. 31 to play UMBC, a team they lost to last season. Then, on Feb. 2 they will play William & Mary in Williamsburg. Va. A series of home games will follow in the month of February against Drexel, Xavier, Fairleigh Dickinson, Stony Brook and Fordham. Based on last year’s record, Xavier would be Temple’s toughest opponent with a 20-5 record but Mauro is not willing to make that judgment.
“I haven’t looked at the rooster for the other teams and I am not sure who graduated and what players they have had,” Mauro said. “So it is difficult for me to say who will be.”
After the home games, five away games will ensue against Hampton, Old Dominion, Penn, Binghamton and Georgetown before the Owls head back to the Pavilion to play cross-town rivals Villanova. The first conference matchup comes against Connecticut on March 29. Quinnipiac, Navy, and Lehigh are the last few teams Temple will play on the road. The last game of the season will be at home against Morgan State, who the men won against last year.
“I think in the beginning we will start out a little bit slow, but as the season goes on we will get better and better because we are still a young team for the men and the women,” Mauro said. “So I am very optimistic about our chances.”
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