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Men’s tennis to open Southland Conference tournament
April 27, 2017
The Nicholls State University men’s tennis team will compete against Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi this Saturday in Beaumont, Texas in the Southland Conference Tournament.
Head Coach Greg Harkins said being able to play at the state-of-the-art City of Beaumont Tennis Center will give the Colonels an advantage because it is a neutral location.
“We played them earlier in the season in Corpus Christi and I’ll be honest, it’s pretty tough to play them at home because they’re really competitive,” Harkins said. “The neutral location is great and in terms of conference, Beaumont makes sense because it’s in the center of where all the teams come from.”
Despite losing 0-7 against the Islanders early in the season, Harkins said his older players now know what to expect.
“I think our point of reference is going to be our senior experience,” Harkins said. “Corpus Christi is a younger team, so I’m hoping with our experience and having already played them, we can adjust accordingly.”
With only six men’s tennis teams currently in the Southland Conference, four teams, including the Colonels, qualified for conference play.
Due to the small amount of teams involved in the tournament, Harkins believes anything is possible for his athletes.
“It’s a short format so we will show up, throw it all out there and see what happens. If someone else has a bad day, we can find ourselves in the finals of the conference championship just like that,” Harkins said. “We’re trying to impress and show the men that anything can happen and that’s why we go play these matches.”
Harkins said one focal point of preparation for the SLC Tournament has been for his players to become more comfortable in adversity and in competitive situations.
Even with an 0-5 SLC record, Harkins said the team has played in enough matches to know what to do and how to gain confidence on the court.
With a two-week hiatus in play leading up to the tournament, sophomore Oleksander “Sasha” Podgursky said the team has had plenty of time to form a game plan.
“We are motivated. We have talked about it and discussed our strengths, weaknesses and our game plan,” Podgursky said. “We are prepared to go and give our best and we are going to work hard to get as far as we can. I think we have a good chance.”
Podgursky said although the season was tough and many close matches were lost, positive energy and an emphasis on staying focused carried him through.
Thanks to the experience of the team’s four seniors, Podgursky said the season helped him grow and become more prepared for the future.
“I’ve seen more opponents and played more matches. I got physically stronger and more mentally prepared from when I first came here,” Podgursky said. “I had no clue then, so I’m more experienced now. I know what to expect, where to go and what to work on.”
The winner of the Southland Conference Championship will go to the NCAA Regionals where they will get a shot to compete with the final 16.
Harkins said although every coach and every player strives to make it there, he will be able to hang his hat on the progress his team made this year, despite the results of the weekend.
“Our goal was for this year to be a building block. There were some challenges, but what the guys and the women are doing now is hopefully laying the foundation for where we’re going to be, over the next two, three and four years,” Harkins said. “Our goal is to be back in the top third of the conference and to put ourselves into a position to compete for conference championships. There’s no reason why we can’t do that.”