The Marquette women’s and men’s tennis teams head down to Tampa, Fla., this week to battle for the Big East championships. The men’s squad secured the sixth seed in their bracket and will take on St. John’s Friday, while the women’s team will also challenge the Red Storm as the seventh seed in their tournament today.
Men’s coach Steve Rodecap feels his team (10-12) is playing its best tennis right now, coming off a 4-3 win over conference rival DePaul last Saturday.
“St. John’s is a good team, but we’ve done a lot to prepare for this moment, and we look forward to seeing how far of a run we can make,” Rodecap said. “DePaul is always an emotional match and a big rivalry, and I feel like our guys handled the emotion well. It really works as a springboard for us into the championships this weekend.”
While squaring off against a team the Golden Eagles didn’t face this year is challenging enough, Rodecap mentioned the obstacles the locale itself presents.
“Tampa is going to offer a lot of challenges for us as well,” Rodecap said. “We’re going to be playing in close to 90 degree heat, and we haven’t done that all year. But the good thing is we’re playing a team in the first round from New York, and they probably haven’t been playing in it a lot either. Down there it will become a lot more of a physical battle, but I feel like we’ve put in the work off the court to go down there and have a good chance of making a deep run.”
Rodecap said the Golden Eagles’ seniors will need to have a big impact like they did against DePaul. Both seniors, Jonathan Schwerin and Drake Kakar, came up big in that win for Marquette with a pair of crucial victories in the singles round in the fourth and sixth positions. Rodecap believes their composure in the tough environment presented by the championships will be huge for the team’s success.
Women’s coach Jody Bronson believes that her team has just as good a shot as any of the other teams in the conference at taking home the title. She said her team has grown tremendously since the start of the season and that the biggest challenge will be getting all of the team’s individual talent to show up in unison.
“We’ve had days where we haven’t had enough players playing as well as they can play,” Bronson said. “It’s all about getting everyone to show up and give their all in one concentrated effort.”
Like the men’s team, Bronson knows her seniors will dictate the team’s success or failure through example at the top spots of the rotation. That being said, Bronson said she wouldn’t be surprised at all to see freshmen Ana Pimienta, Ali Dawson and Vanessa Foltinger have big impacts.
“Our seniors are very solid,” Bronson said. “They’ve proven that this year, and they’ve been here three times before, but all three of our freshmen have seen how they’ve competed all year, and they know what they need to do. I know that all three are capable of breaking out.”
Sophomore Rocio Diaz said that the team’s underclassmen will be looking to play their best tennis of the year for their seniors, a statement that spoke volumes to senior Gillian Hush about how the team has grown over the course of the season. Hush believes that Marquette will be mentally strong enough to compete with any team, and it will look to start each match aggressively rather than try to constantly dig itself out of holes.
“One thing we struggle with is coming from behind, so we’ve been focusing on getting ahead first,” Hush said. “We’re also trying not to rush the point.”