Men's tennis facing two challenges
Thursday, February 18, 2016
By Tood Lamberth
Men's tennis facing two challenges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Following two big wins last weekend, the Lipscomb men’s tennis team looks to continue that momentum this weekend.

The Bisons welcome Illinois State and UAB to Music City on Friday and Saturday, respectfully. Both matches will take place at Richland Country Club. Lipscomb and Illinois State begin play at 7 Friday night.

The Red Birds enter the match at 4-2, after starting the season with four straight wins. Illinois State suffered its first losses of the season last weekend with 4-3 decisions to both Northern Illinois and Cleveland State. This will be the first meeting ever between the Bisons and Red Birds.

On Saturday, the Blazers of UAB face the Bisons at 6 p.m. The Blazers enter the match at 3-3, also dropping their last two matches. The Blazers are coming off of a 6-12 season a year ago, including a 5-1 win over the Bisons.

The Bisons continue their run of strong non-conference competition as they gear up for conference play. Head coach Mario Hernandez likes that his team will continue to play tough opponents.

“Both are strong programs so it’s going to be a challenge this week,” Hernandez said. “But this is exactly what our team needs to face. We had a good weekend last weekend and now it’s right back to work. We’re going to be very challenged which is what we need. We want to be a really tough team coming into conference and these types of matches will help us with that.”

After picking up their first win of the season, followed by a win over rival Belmont, Hernandez expects his team to take some competition into this weekend’s matches.

“Following the four losses, you can sense that the guys really wanted to get that first win,” Hernandez said. “After getting those two wins, you start to see that swagger and confidence.

“Getting those two wins helps to show that we’re doing is working. It’s not that we’re not playing well, it’s just that we’re playing tough competition at the start of the year.”

With that confidence, Hernandez wants to see his team continue to play aggressively and control the games.

“On the singles side, it is the same thing we’ve been talking about all season,” Hernandez said. “When the moment’s there, they look to structure the point to be around their strengths and to really go after the shot once they’ve earned it. Play fearless tennis - that’s what we want in our guys.”

The Bison coaches have encouraged their players to go after shots when they present themselves and Hernandez feels his players are starting to buy into that.

“We want to get to where every single guy has that mind frame, and we are,” Hernandez said. “We’re getting there.

“I think John (Tougher) was a perfect example in the Belmont match, being the deciding match. He really amped his style of play and played aggressively. He went for his opportunity when he got it. With the guys seeing him doing that, it should be a lesson that it pays off when you do that.”

Last week, the Bisons had some players step up to help secure wins. Hernandez feels this is a testament to how deep this team is and the confidence they have.

“The top part of our lineup is probably where we’ve been the most consistent, but the bottom part of our lineup in practice is competing with our top guys,” Hernandez said. “That confidence should carry over into the matches.”