KENNESAW, Ga. - With a spot in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament clinched, the Lipscomb men’s tennis team heads to Kennesaw State looking to continue the momentum.
The Bisons face off with the Owls at 3 p.m. to finish conference play before they travel to Tuscaloosa for a match against Vanderbilt at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Lipscomb (7-11, 1-4) goes into the weekend after a 5-2 win over NJIT last Saturday. The match secured a spot for the Bisons in conference tournament for the first time in three years.
“We really feel like since we’ve kind of gotten the monkey off our back in terms of qualifying for the conference tournament, it’s going to allow us to free up a bit,” Hernandez said. “The thing that’s also very important is that nobody has the mentality like ‘okay, we’ve made the conference tournament now we can just sit back and relax.’ If anything there’s more to play for now.”
With their spot clinched, Lipscomb head coach Mario Hernandez wants his team to play more loosely these last few matches.
“I think the guys are relaxed in a good way as opposed to focusing on whether or not we’re going to make the tournament or that kind of stuff,” Hernandez said. “Now it’s just focusing on your task, which is your tennis.”
The Owls (9-8, 1-4) split their matchups last week, picking up a 6-1 win over NJIT before losing 5-2 to USC-Upstate. The win over NJIT is Kennesaw State’s lone win in their last seven matches. The Owls have pulled out wins the last two times they have faced Lipscomb.
A win on Saturday would give the Bisons the fifth seed in next week’s tournament.
“Kennesaw is one of our rivals,” Hernandez said. “We’ve always had tight matches with them. I know that it’s going to be an intense match, but that’s what we’re prepared for.”
Vanderbilt (13-12) enters the weekend ranked No. 45 in the nation but having lost four of their last five matches, all in SEC play.
Lipscomb opened its season with a 4-0 loss to the Commodores. Hernandez feels like the match will present a good test for his team before heading into conference play.
“We always want to play against the best competition,” Hernandez said. “It is great preparation for the tournament coming up. No team in the tournament is going to be as tough as Vanderbilt.”
After marking off their goal of making the tournament, Hernandez doesn’t want his team to stop there as they finish out the regular season.
“We’re not going to be satisfied with just making the conference tournament because if we were we’d be missing out on a great opportunity,” Hernandez said. “We’ve got a lot to gain so we’re excited for this weekend.”