The men’s and women’s tennis teams opened their seasons over the weekend at Samford University, yet both teams fell short to the Bulldogs in Birmingham, Alabama.
The women took the court first on Saturday, Jan. 20, as they fielded a team that featured all returning players from last season, losing 1-6 overall.
Laura Hopton was the lone match-winner for the Owls, engaging in a tense three-set battle. The Hull, England, native took her opponent to a tiebreaker in the final set and came out victorious 6-4, 2-6, 10-5.
Despite no other victories by the Owls, tough performances by Jessica Cantrell and Aspen Jarrett give hope for the season going forward. Jarrett took the second set of her match to 5-7 after dropping the first. Director of tennis Eduardo Rincon reflected on the tough first outing for the women by looking at the positive aspects of the day.
“The girls competed hard today,” Rincon said. “We had a rough start in doubles, but we were able to get into some of the singles matches and finished the day playing better than where we started.”
On Sunday, Jan. 21, the men’s tennis team had its turn against the Bulldogs and fared marginally better than the women, falling 2-5.
Senior Corey Smith and junior Fermin Calvo Barcelo won in singles matches while others remained competitive in their losses. Both Lucas de Torres Curth and Bryan Triana forced their opponents to seven games in the first set before falling in the second.
Calvo Barcelo and Manuel Castellanos pulled out a victory in doubles, but the Owls dropped the other two doubles matches and missed out on one point. Rincon highlighted this missed opportunity but still had positive thoughts to help the team move forward.
“I thought we played a good match today with it being our season opener,” Rincon said. “We let some big opportunities get away from us in doubles and singles, and that eventually cost us the match. We now have some time to get back to practice and work on some aspects that we need to improve right away.”
The women’s team is coming off a tough season where many close matches were contested but resulted in a 5-15 overall record. Before a seven-match losing streak to end the season, the women had put in a balanced season with much potential. Consistency between individual matches will be important for them this season.
The men’s team fared well last season, finishing with a 13-8 record fueled by a seven-match winning streak. With five members of last year’s team having graduated, the Owls must find a way to adjust to a more youthful mix. The veteran core of Calvo Barcelo, de Torres Curth, Castellanos and Smith will be the leaders of the team this season.
Up next, the women’s team plays Georgia Southern on Wednesday, Jan. 31, while the men play Belmont on Friday, Feb. 2.