The recipe for a championship season is one that Tyler Junior College tennis head coach John Peterson knows well. It begins with a talented group of players, sprinkled with a desire to win, great coaching and a dash of luck.
As the season winds down for Peterson’s teams, not much has surprised him. The women are dominating their competition, and the men are having to find some answers as their season progresses.
The women are coming off several big wins against nationally ranked teams that include the preseason number one ranked team in the country, Hillsborough Community College (Fla.), and number three ranked Lee College (Texas). Going into press time they stood at a record of 21-2.
After beating Hillsborough, the TJC women will now likely take hold of the number one ranking and be the team to beat.
“Before, we were the team that was trying to beat the number one team, but now the bull’s-eye will be on us,” Peterson said. “We’ll see how we handle that, but I think we’ll be all right.”The players also know that they will get every opponent’s best match for the rest of the season.
“There’s pressure to keep winning, but we want to prove to everyone that we are the best team,” freshman Brooke Dennis said.
Three of the top five women players are non-scholarship players and have plenty to do with the team’s success up to this point. They include sophomore Masha Slupska, and freshmen Sun Wen and Antonia Kolovou.
Although the women have been peaking throughout the season, Peterson still believes that his women’s squad hasn’t reached their full potential.
“They played their strongest matches (in the Baytown tournament), but they’re capable of playing stronger,” Peterson said.
Both losses on the women’s record have come at the hands of NCAA Division I teams, Lamar University and Northwestern State. Losing to a junior college or coming up short of a championship isn’t something the players plan to experience.
“The players here from last year that lost in nationals remind us of what that feeling was like, and we don’t want to go through that and know what it feels like,” Dennis said.
Coming into press time the men stood at a record of 12-4. It may be a winning record, but has been a disappointing one to Peterson and his players.
“They have more talent than they’re realizing right now,” Peterson said.
Peterson also added that his players need to believe in each other more and push each other harder.
The players see the biggest problem stemming from a lack of chemistry.
“We need to do a better job of giving a little bit of ourselves to gather around each other and become a family,” freshman Marco Lopez said.
Although the men were given a number one ranking in the nation during the preseason, Peterson added that his players still have to go out there and prove themselves.