New season, seven straight losses

The men’s tennis team has lost its first seven matches of the season, but Hicham Belkssir said he doesn’t think it’s for lack of skill.

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

“Luckily we have a good group of guys and no one’s really slacking in practice,” coach Steve Mauro said. “I think they know that we’re so close to winning some of these matches.”

Mauro said he has resorted to a variety of different ways to get through to his team.

“I’ve had different strategies talking with the guys, but I think they’re all up to the challenge,” Mauro said.

Junior co-captain Kristian Marquart said he believes the team’s struggles can turn around with individual efforts, which can be pieced together to get the team going in the right direction.

“In order for us to win as a team and for us to gain confidence the guys have to win the matches on their own and that will help everyone else,” Marquart said.

The team opened its season with two losses in the VCU 4+1 invitational, then proceeded to lose in lopsided decisions 7-0, 6-1, and 6-1 to UMBC, William & Mary, and Old Dominion respectively.  The team had a better showing in a match last week against Drexel, but still came up empty-handed losing 4-3.

“To be honest, we kind of feel the pressure,” Marquart said. “We do. But it makes us work even harder, because we know it can’t be like this forever.”

One of the players whom Mauro was particularly pleased with after Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Drexel was Belkssir, who won 6-0, 6-2 against the Dragons recording one of Temple’s points in the match in singles.

While Temple has been close to victory at times, most notably in the Drexel match, coming up empty-handed is the constant so far this season and has the team failing to believe.  The Owls have seen improvements from Belkssir, Marquart, and sophomore Nicolas Paulus, three players who played well by recording Temple’s three points in the Drexel match last week, but have yet to piece together a full team effort to break through.

“It’s definitely a mental thing,” Belkssir said.  “Our best moments are when you’re really confident.”

Greg Frank can be reached at greg.frank@temple.edu and on Twitter @g_frank6

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