NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Heading into the start of the spring season, coach Mario Hernandez wants to see his men’s tennis team pick up where it left off in the fall.
Hernandez and his Bisons kicked off practice on Monday night. With the cold temperatures, practice took place indoors at the Richland Country Club.
“We want to see how sharp everyone is,” Hernandez said. “You can tell whose put work in over the break and who hasn’t, if that’s the case.”
Hernandez wants to gauge where his team is as a whole and individually. He wants his players to focus on getting in rhythm with their hitting and on their conditioning as they start the season.
The bulk of the Bison’s schedule will consist of non-conference opponents, with 14 out-of-conference matches. Lipscomb will be tested in those matches, including two opponents from the Southeastern Conference.
The first, and maybe biggest, test comes with their first match as they head to West End to play 25th -ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday at 4 p.m. inside the Currey Tennis Center.
Hernandez hopes the anticipation of this early test inspired his players to continue their work over the break.
“We scheduled the Vanderbilt match the first week because everyone’s going to be up for it,” Hernandez said. “But also did it with the intent it was going to give guys incentive while they were away from us on their break to be training, to be preparing.”
Lipscomb will also take on Alabama out of the SEC in early February.
“The thing about starting off against a Vanderbilt and having an Alabama in there as well is that those matches raise our level,” Hernandez said. “They force us to be better.”
Outside of Vanderbilt, the Bisons will face three other in-state teams in Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay and Belmont.
The Bisons will face seven non-conference opponents they saw last season. They defeated Belmont, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay and Ball State, while they fell to Vanderbilt and UAB.
Lipscomb will host a month’s worth of matches, as the Bisons will go from February 12th to March 12th without leaving the city.
Lipscomb will finish the non-conference schedule on March 18th in New Orleans where they will play UT-Rio Grande Valley and New Orleans.
Hernandez wanted to get a good mix in non-conference opponents with some high level competition along with strong mid-majors.
“With our non-conference schedule, we have a pretty good parity of teams,” Hernandez said. “Within there we have a lot of strong mid-major programs.
“We don’t have any matches that are an easy win match. We’ve explained it to the guys, for where we want to be going, we have to play these types of schedules.
The non-conference schedule will be important as they head into strong conference play. However, Hernandez doesn’t want to oversell non-conference results too much. He wants his team to have a good mentality and to be healthy as they head into conference play.
“We want everyone to feel good about their game level-wise,” Hernandez said. “The reality is, you can go in with a perfect record into conference and things can go completely different in conference. For us, we just want to make sure we feel pretty good about it, regardless of what our record may be.”