The Owls wrapped up their regular season on Sunday, April 14, defeating Binghamton 6-1. That match capped off a stretch of four matches being played in five days, all at home on the Student Pavilion courts.
The team normally plays about one match every four days. Until the season-ending home stand, the Owls (9-13, 3-6 Atlantic 10 Conference) had never played more than three matches during a seven-day stretch. The last six matches of the season were played during the course of nine days.
However, neither coach Steve Mauro nor his players think playing so many matches in so little time is a big deal.
“We consider it just like practice,” Mauro said. “I feel this is a good way to get the girls ready for the [A-10 tournament], where you play matches day after day. This can only help us.”
The A-10 women’s tournament begins on Thursday, April 18, in Charlottesville, Va. The tournament is single-elimination, and teams play one match a day. The final two teams will play four matches in four days.
Mauro said the past few matches were scheduled so close together on purpose to prepare the Owls for the playoffs.
“Toward the end of the year, it’s more about playing matches than practice,” Mauro said. “Even though we still practice, nothing can duplicate match play, so that’s why we scheduled things like that.”
Players agreed with Mauro that the hectic schedule would benefit them at the tournament.
“A-10s are straightforward,” sophomore Rebecca Breland said. “You play a match every day, you don’t get any breaks. This is a good warm-up for A-10s.”
“We’re all going to be tired,” junior Alicia Doms said. “Especially now at the end of the season, we just have in mind that we have A-10s in one week, so we are motivated. We are gonna be tired, but it’s good that we will be playing four matches and getting used to this.”
One consequence of the amount of matches is minor injuries cropping up among players. Junior Jordan Batey did not play singles against Binghamton due to a swollen ankle. Doms, the likely top-flight player at the A-10s, has been playing through left elbow tendinitis.
“It’s an injury that you have to rest to get better, and right now I cannot rest because we have two weeks left,” Doms said. “The trainer told me, after the season, I have to rest one month, and then it’s going to be good. I’m going to play the rest of the year.”
Doms finished the home stand 3-1 in singles, including a 6-4, 6-4 top-flight win over St. Joseph’s senior Casey Robinson.
“It’s just something that she has to play with,” Mauro said. “It’s not affecting her performance at all.”
Breland also went 3-1 in singles in the home stand. Her best win came against Syracuse sophomore Jimena Wu by a score of 6-2, 6-2. Despite playing two three-set matches, Breland escaped the weekend without any injuries.
“For the most part I’m healthy,” Breland said. “I don’t get injured as easily as everybody else.”
The players do not only have to focus on playing good tennis; they also have to make sure they keep up with their schoolwork. Doms said she could easily balance her time.
“I have played tennis all my life, so I’m used to this,” Doms said. “In Spain, I practiced for four hours, even more than here. In high school in Spain, the level is really high. I was going to school from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. With these kind of things, I know how to manage my time, so it’s not hard for me. I’m doing good in school.”
The past four matches were the only matches the team played all year at its outdoor home: the Student Pavilion. Unlike the indoor home, Legacy Tennis Center, the Pavilion has a lot of ambient noise: cars driving by on 15th Street, the Broad Street Line passing by and events at Geasey Field.
“With any sport, if you’re in the zone, and you’re focused, stuff from the outside shouldn’t bother you,” Breland said. “You get used to it.”
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment because we don’t play a lot of matches at home,” Mauro said. “But it’s great seeing the students around and supporting us as well.”
The Owls will likely have a low seed at the A-10 tournament and won’t be expected to make it too far. That won’t stop them from putting up a fight.
“Just to play my hardest, play hard and don’t give up,” Breland said of her goals in the playoffs. “Play for every point.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.