Daniel Davis was sitting in the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center sporting a big smile before the men’s tennis team’s meet with George Washington Saturday.
What was making Davis so happy?
Well, it could have been first year head coach Steve Mauro’s new system.
Or maybe it was Davis’ display of enthusiasm around his teammates, who are all new to the team with the exception of three players.
Both were good reasons to smile, according to Davis, whose team came into its match against GW at 9-4 and undefeated in Atlantic Ten Conference play.
Davis smiled some more after the match, too. The Owls knocked off the Colonials, 5-1, giving Temple its 10th win of the season – seven more than it had all of last year.
Davis and teammate Milan Juricka, both seniors, led the way for the Owls. Juricka beat GW’s Sam Salyer, 7-5, 6-3, while Davis rallied in both sets to defeat Elliott Daniels, 6-4, 6-4.
Davis has come through for the Owls throughout the course of the season. He has primarily been the Owls’ No. 3 singles player, but because of injuries to his teammates, he has played in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, as well.
Davis, who is recovering from the flu, had trouble with his serve for much of his match against GW’s Daniels.
That, he said, was the least of his problems. Tension was high during Davis’ match with Daniels.
An ‘out’ call on one of Daniels’ shots infuriated the Colonials’ player, because it cost him a point in the match.
There was another incident after Davis went up 4-3 in the first set, when Daniels brushed Davis while the two were taking a break.
“It seems like everywhere we go we can’t get any love from the umpires,” a smiling Davis said after his win. “I mean, they want to go against us, but [the Colonials] were pretty fired up and I usually try to keep my head cool until the big point so I can really rub it in.”
Davis came through on a number of occasions throughout his match, hitting big shots and forcing Daniels into errors while staying focused when he had to.
Davis said his serving is something he must focus on.
“[I knew if I] could just get one break on my serve, that that would be a set,” Davis said. “I mean, I really focused in on my serving game.”
Mauro said he thought his team played well against GW, but the coach added that injuries continue to plague the team.
“They played better than I thought they would,” Mauro said of his team, which is 6-2 in its last eight matches.
“Davis is coming off the flu so he was a little off, but I think overall they competed well.”
With the win over the Colonials (1-7), the Owls seem likely to be playing in next month’s A-10 Championship.
That alone has separated this year’s team from last, Davis said. The Harlem, N.Y., native said the players are more focused. He said the coaching has improved. And team chemistry has been there.
But what makes the team so different than last year’s?
Davis said the turnaround is the result of having new coaches and players to work with in practice, which the senior said have been going better.
“I think [practice] is what it is all about,” Davis said. “I think last year our coach [Bill Hoehne] was dealing with some issues with his job and he really couldn’t show up to practice as much. This year, the practicing and scheduling of matches are better.”
Mauro agreed with Davis’ notion that practice actually does make perfect.
“I really don’t know what they did last year as far as practice, but I give the guys some specific things to do in practice,” he said, “and everything is geared toward the specific opponent, so I think that helps a lot.”
Davis admitted that he has to improve on his serve if he expects to make any impact at the A-10 Championship.
“I just have to really stay consistent on the ground with the baseline,” he said. “I have to make sure that I am hitting a lot of balls from the baseline and making my way to the net, as opposed to rushing it.
“The focus is definitely on winning the A-10 Championship. All these wins don’t mean anything if we don’t win the A-10 Championship.”
Jabari Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.