Despite late surges, Owls falter against conference rivals

The momentum came to a definitive halt – both in Memphis and Tampa, Fla.

The men’s and women’s tennis teams were playing well heading into their respective American Athletic Conference tournaments, as the men’s team had won 11 of its past 13 matches and the women had won three of their past four. But against their conference foes, both teams were shut out in the first round of the tournament. The men’s team lost to nationally-ranked Louisville, while the women fell to Central Florida.

The men’s team finished the regular season on a month-long seven-match winning streak that boosted its record to above the .500 mark after it started the year on an eight-match losing streak.  Coach Steve Mauro had pointed to improved doubles play throughout the winning streak as something to be proud of and said he was confident going into the conference tournament.

Mauro said earlier in the season that he had difficulty scheduling matches in the conference since he likes to schedule a year in advance and last year Temple was still competing in the Atlantic 10 Conference.  As a result, Temple played just one match – at Connecticut – against a conference foe.

“I think that had something to do with it,” Mauro said.

However, Louisville had played against just one conference opponent in The American as well.

With all the players on the men’s team returning next season, Mauro remained positive after the defeat and acknowledged that, after this loss, the competition in The American is nothing to turn a blind eye to.

“For us, we use this loss as motivation for next year,” Mauro added.  “We’re just happy to be playing in such a strong conference.”

Freshmen Vineet Naran said Louisville would be tough, but added that Temple was competitive throughout the match – despite being shut out.

“They were a good team,” Naran said.  “We tried our best and it was just a matter of a couple points that made the difference.”

“I guess our expectations were to win and we didn’t,” Naran added.

The women’s team drew Central Florida in the first round and dropped a 4-0 match in Tampa.  While Mauro was in Memphis with the men’s team last weekend, upon hearing the news of the loss, he said the women’s team did not meet his expectations.

“It was a difficult loss,” Mauro said.

The women’s team competed in four conference matches during the regular season, but played UCF for the first time in the tournament.

“The girls fought hard and I think if we played them a different time it would be a different outcome,” Mauro said.

Freshmen Anais Nussaume attributed UCF’s strong play to its ability to play outdoors all season. Temple was forced to practice much of its spring season indoors at nearby Legacy Youth Tennis and Education Center.

However, Nussaume said the team wasn’t entirely disappointed with the way things ended.

“It’s sad to lose first round,” Nussaume said. “But UCF is one of the better teams we had played all season. So I still believe that most of us did play well during the conferences matches.”

The outlook now shifts to the future for both teams, as the women’s team will lose seniors Jordan Batey, Carly Bohman, Alicia Doms and Yana Mavrina to graduation. All members of the men’s team are eligible to return next season. Mauro remains optimistic for both teams for their second year in The American.

“We know we’re going to get better,” Mauro said.

Greg Frank can be reached at greg.frank@Temple.edu or on Twitter @g_frank6.

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