Ryan Hudleson takes his place on the court with his doubles partner, Vaughn Hunter, bouncing a tennis ball and getting ready to serve on a cool April afternoon.
“It was different than last year for sure,” said Hudleson. “Last year we won every match starting in March and this year we’ve lost some tough matches we should have won but I think losing those has made us stronger as a team and will help us finish the year strong.”
The season has been eventful according to head coach, Dash Connell.
“Every season has its ups and downs, but I think these teams have continued to follow our number one goal that we set at the beginning of each year,” said Connell. “…We are getting better all the time. We are definitely playing better now than a few months ago.
This season the men’s tennis team has gone 16-7 and the women have gone 20-5. Only one tournament stands in the way of completing the spring season – nationals.
The women’s tournament will be hosted here at TJC, May 3-8. The men’s will be May 12-16 in Plano.
“Nationals is always a dog fight,” said Connell. “It’s an entire week of pressure and proving yourself as a team. It’s not always the most talented, but who handles all the dilemmas that occur during the tournament.”
Connell goes on to say that they put themselves in a spot to do something special.
Freshman Joanna-Nena Savva says she loves everything about tennis and she plays with all her heart.
“I am very thankful to God for this because it’s an honor for me to play nationals at the courts of TJC,” said Savva. “We have the best courts I’ve seen in my life and I’m very excited the countdown has started.”
Regional for the men’s tennis team went well and was the highlight of the season so far for Connell.
“We lost to Laredo a couple of months ago, 5-4,” said Connell. “Our guys pushed to get better through this season and we beat them 8-1 last week. It was a great team effort.”
Connell said the highlight for his women’s team was beating ASA, the No. 2 team in the country. He said there was a lot of pressure, but the girls didn’t back down.
Hudleson said his highlight of the season has been regionals so far.
“(Laredo) beat us earlier in the year and it was nice to beat them for regionals,” said Hudleson. “It also gives us some momentum going into nationals.”
Athletic Director, Dr. Tim Drain, said both teams had remarkable regional tournaments.
The season has been different than last season, but the teams have shown their best with one tournament left to decide if they will be the team to bring TJC’s 50th national championship.
“We are proud to be hosting the women’s national championships next week and the men travel to Plano next week,” said Drain. “I know our teams are ready for their respective tournaments and I know both teams will do well.”
After this season, both teams will be losing players. The men will lose Mate Cutura who has signed with Mississippi State. The women will lose Kerr Wiegand who has signed with St. Mary’s.
Connell mentioned some are still trying to figure out what their options are and it’s normal for this to happen when transferring schools to play tennis.
Players for the women staying next season are Savva, Adriana Garrett and Paige Murdock. Men that will stay are Vaughn Hunter, John King, Kyle Logue, Matthew Rossouw and Zach Northey.