Owls aim to avenge conference-tournament woes

Coach Steve Mauro’s team is 2-3 in conference tournament matches since 2012.

Senior Santiago Canete jumps for a serve during a recent practice at the TU Pavilion. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN

During the 2011-12 season, the Owls matched up with George Washington University in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship at the Linder Family Tennis Center.

In the team’s opening game of the tournament, the squad fell to the Colonials 4-1. Since the loss, the Owls are 2-3 in conference-tournament play.

Coach Steve Mauro said this group of Owls—who finished the year with a 20-5 record—is one of the most talented groups he has coached.

“This is one of the best teams that we’ve had here in a while,” Mauro said. “I think that we can win. I think that conference was a little bit weaker than the conference that we’re in now. Like I said, I think it’s going to be tough but we’re certainly capable to pull it off.”

The Owls were 2-2 in American-Athletic-Conference play this year after totaling a 1-2 record against conference opponents last season. The team earned the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament and opens up play on Friday against Tulsa.

In matches against East Carolina and Connecticut this season, the Owls won 4-3 and 5-2, respectively.

Memphis and Southern Methodist both outscored Temple 7-0 in the team’s two conference losses.

Senior Nicolas Paulus said it’s important for the Owls’ mental game to be at it’s best before they travel to Memphis today for the conference tournament.

“With SMU, I was 4-2 up in the second set,” Paulus said. “I was really close to get into the third set and then I make maybe one too many mistakes because I think I have to finish the set and take it all in my hands.”

Prior to facing Southern Methodist on March 2, the Owls won nine matches in row. Following the match, the team lost three of its next six matches.

In that six-game span, freshman Florian Mayer was the lone Owl to win a set during the match against Memphis.

Despite the losses against Southern Methodist and Memphis, freshman Artem Kapshuk thinks the Owls will be able overcome their previous losses in the postseason.

“First is the confidence and the belief that we can win those matches,” Kapshuk said. “Second is that you need to fight for every point.”

Temple’s 20 wins this season tie the 1984-85, 1986-87 and 1988-89 teams for most regular-season wins.

The Owls won seven consecutive matches to finish out the regular season with a 5-2 win over Drexel University on April 13.

The Owls huddle after doubles play against Drexel University on April 13, 2016. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN
The Owls huddle after doubles play against Drexel University on April 13, 2016. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN

“I think our position couldn’t be any better conference-wise,” Paulus said. “Everyone knows what we can do and what we are able to do because of this winning streak.”

Along with Paulus, seniors Hicham Belkssir and Santiago Canete have not won more than one match in postseason play during their tenures.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against,” Belkssir said. “Forget the name, forget the facility… we should go [out] and just be eager to win.”

Tom Ignudo can be reached at tom.ignudo@temple.edu or on Twitter @Ignudo5.

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