Men’s tennis reverses course

After the men’s tennis team lost its seventh straight match to open the spring season, sophomore Hicham Belkssir had an idea of what was going wrong.

“We really don’t believe in ourselves at times,” Belkssir said at the time.  “The lack of confidence is playing a big role in our record but we’re trying to be really pumped up for our matches.”

The Owls lost their eighth straight match to Stony Brook on Feb. 21. But then, a win against Fordam started a four game winning streak. After a win at Navy last weekend, Temple has now won 10 of its past 12 matches.  The team has three regular season matches to go before the American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis that will begin on April 17.

“It was very difficult early because we knew we were playing well but we just didn’t get the ‘W’ at the end of the day,” coach Steve Mauro said.

“We try to stay positive,” Mauro added.  “Stay positive and good things will happen.”

Last season, Temple had a similar start going 2-9 in its first 11 matches.  The Owls won their first two matches last year before going on a nine-match losing streak.  It was a match last year against Fordham which ended the long losing streak and got Temple going in the right direction.

This year, after the 0-8 start, the Fordham match served as a catalyst for Temple’s season.  Junior co-captain Kristian Marquart was around for both slow starts and he said he noticed the team was able to stick together through their slow start this season.

“It was hard,” Marquart said.  “But the good thing about having a team is that you’re not alone in the situation and the guys are helping each other out.”

Marquart said that at times it was difficult for him and the rest of the team to believe in themselves and have faith that things were going to turn around.

“I would be lying if I said we were as confident at match number nine as we were at match number one,” Marquart added.

Belkssir said that the team’s situation got to a point where, when the losses were piling up, the players realized that it was time to stop feeling sorry for themselves and take care of business.

“We just picked it up and it was the only way to help us mentally,” Belkssir said.  “We kind of didn’t really have a choice but to win.”

“Everyone’s happier right now and everyone’s looking forward to matches,” Belkssir added.  “Confidence isn’t going to be an excuse anymore.”

Temple opened the season playing its home matches indoors at Legacy Tennis Center but is now expected to move outdoors to the TU Pavilion for its final two home matches against Bucknell and Rider on Saturday and Sunday.

Mauro said that a break in the weather can only help his team who he believes will perform at a higher level in matches outdoors.

“I feel that we’re definitely a better team outside due to the style that we play,” Mauro said.

Greg Frank can be reached at Greg.Frank@temple.edu or on Twitter @g_frank6.

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