The women's tennis team dives into conference play today with the start of the Conference USA tournament in Louisville, Ky. The team enters the tournament coming off a big win in its final regular season match over conference foe Alabama-Birmingham.
The team enters the tournament coming off a challenging regular season schedule, in which it was put to the test by 11 nationally-ranked teams. Head coach Jody Bronson said the season's tough schedule has prepared the Golden Eagles for the conference tournament. She believes the team's biggest challenges are behind them.
"We're not going to see tougher matches at conference," she said.
The Golden Eagles will start off tournament play against 12th-seed Southern Miss. The two Golden Eagle teams will face off at 11 a.m today. Southern Miss comes into the tournament with a better overall record (9-10) than Marquette. However, the Golden Eagle team from Marquette has the better conference record, standing at 2-1. Southern Miss has only had one conference match thus far, losing 2-5 to UAB, the No. 11 seed.
The only conference teams Marquette has seen this season are Charlotte, DePaul and UAB. The team had no problems with Charlotte and UAB, taking the matches, 6-1 and 7-0, respectively. However, the DePaul match was tight and came down to the last match, which itself was very close. DePaul took the win, 4-3.
If the team wins the first matchup it would move on to the quarterfinals and would play the winner of the Houston-Saint Louis match. The Cougars hold the better record and are more likely to move to the quarterfinals. Houston is seeded third and holds a conference record of 2-1 and an overall record of 10-9. Saint Louis, seeded No. 14, has a 0-3 record in conference and an overall record of 2-18.
All season Bronson has been stressing the need for the team members to believe in themselves and to walk onto the court ready to play. This is especially important for the team as it enters tournament play.
"The most important thing is for these kids to believe they can do it," Bronson said. "Hopefully people will be able to step up."
The Golden Eagles still have to potential to face two more nationally-ranked teams. Tulane, the No. 1 seed and reigning C-USA champion, is ranked No. 15 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. TCU is also ranked by the association, coming in at No. 25, and has earned the second seed in the tournament. TCU finished second in the tournament last year.
Last season Marquette won its first match over DePaul, 4-2, but then lost to TCU in the second round, 4-1. The Golden Eagles finished sixth in the tournament after losing to Memphis, 4-3.
If the Golden Eagles win today, they will play Friday at noon against either Houston or Saint Louis. If the team loses they will play tomorrow at 9 a.m. against the loser of the No. 4 DePaul and No. 13 Cincinnati match. The championship match will be at noon Sunday.