NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb’s men’s tennis team ended a three-year drought with a trip to the Atlantic Sun Tournament last season and coach Mario Hernandez wants more in 2016-2017.
He is going to challenge his players in the fall in order to form the basis for a spring season that will include not only a repeat trip to the tournament, but a stay longer than the first round.
“We want to expose what we need to improve on, but we also want to give our guys the opportunity to get wins over nationally ranked players in order to improve their confidence and accelerate the developmental process,” Hernandez said. “As long as our guys are up for the challenge and have a mindset to constantly improve, we will finish the fall as significantly better players.”
All five tournaments in the fall are on the road. The Bisons start with the Louisville Fall Invitational Sept. 9- 11. They head to the Southern Intercollegiate Championships at the University of Georgia Sept. 23-26.
The next three tournaments are in-state with the Dick LaLance Showdown at Middle Tennessee State Sept. 30-Oct. 2, followed by the ITA Regional Championships at Tennessee Oct. 20-24 and the Commodore Scramble at Vanderbilt Oct. 28-30.
“For our fall schedule we really wanted to make sure we'd be going to events that had the biggest schools and best competition possible within our region,” Hernandez said. “The fall is where we are able to really focus on developing and improving each player and the best way to do that is against the toughest competition.”
The spring season begins at home Jan. 21 against Tennessee Tech indoors at the tennis center at Richland Country Club.
Other indoor home matches are Western Michigan Feb. 3, Chattanooga Feb. 11 and Jacksonville State Feb. 25.
The Bisons will also host Belmont at Richland Feb. 10 in the men’s tennis version of the “Battle of the Boulevard”
The outdoor home season begins March 10 against Ball State at the Huston-Marsh-Griffith Tennis Center on the Lipscomb campus.
“For the spring, we are always developing but the focus is more on performance,” Hernandez said. “It's important for us to balance our schedule so it's not far too difficult and we never want to have a schedule where it's too easy.
“I think we've found that balance which will prepare us well as we go into conference play. How we do in conference is our priority, so each of our guys will need to have the mentality that their performances in the non-conference matches are important, but ultimately it is match preparation for the conference season.”
The ASUN portion of the season begins with two road matches, NJIT in Newark, New Jersey March 23 and at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina March 25.
The home ASUN season begins with Stetson March 30 and North Florida April 1.
On April 8 the Bisons are back on the road for an ASUN match at Fort Myers, Florida against FGCU. The day before they will face Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton in a non-conference match.
The final home match is an ASUN contest with Kennesaw State April 15. The team will also be celebrating “Senior” Day.
The ASUN Championships are scheduled for April 21-23.
“I'm really looking forward to the group we have for this season,” Hernandez said. “It's a blend of veterans who know the culture that we have been developing here, and younger guys who I believe will transition well into our culture.
“As long as they bring their passion for the game and their focus on development, I see our program taking another step in the right direction this year.”