After months of waiting and practicing, the men’s tennis team will officially return to AU tonight. The tennis program was cut following the 2016-17 school year, but has returned after a one year hiatus.
With the return of the program comes a brand new wave of players. The team currently has a roster of 12, consisting of seven freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and a senior.
Two-thirds of the team has no collegiate experience, so head coach Bryant Beard will be forced to rely on underclassmen in the team’s first year back.
Despite the youth, the team has been practicing all winter leading up to their season opener this evening against Taylor.
“We’ve really hit the conditioning hard to get in shape,” said freshmen Seth Nation. “Since we have started hitting, Coach Beard has really been emphasizing hitting every ball clean. We are a young team compared to others in our conference, so we are going to need to minimize our mistakes. We realize that it’s going to be a difficult season for us, but with how much work we’ve put in I believe we can accomplish our goals.”
The team was able to get a feel for live matches this fall when they played matches against St. Francis and Franklin. They’ve also been playing challenge matches in practice to help prepare themselves for live competition.
Since the roster is so young, one of the main focuses of the offseason has been getting the players through the transition from high school to college level play.
“Transitioning from high school to the college level has been difficult at times,” added Nation. “I missed our fall season do to a knee injury that occurred during the summer, so this was a setback coming into college tennis. I have been working with Coach to improve some of my skills and to get in better shape, as college tennis is more demanding than high school tennis.”
The team has a lot to be excited about in their comeback season. One particular thing is 6’7” freshman Dane Hueston. Hueston was a basketball and tennis star for Alexandria-Monroe High School, and his physical qualities will be something to watch as the season progresses.
“Our team has put in a lot of time in the KWC, whether it be conditioning or lifting along with lots of hitting throughout the week,” Hueston said about how he has been preparing for his first season at AU. “Everyone is in the best shape they’ve ever been in, which is exciting.”
The men’s season is short in time but not short on action. They will kick off their season today against Taylor, one of 11 teams they will face in just over three weeks of competition.