Spring season progresses with mixed results

The men’s tennis team has struggled in singles play, while the women’s team has excelled in doubles.

Yana Khon had no interest in playing a doubles tennis match.

In fact, the freshman Uzbekistan native never competed in a doubles capacity before she joined Temple’s women’s team, and was soon introduced to senior Rebecca Breland.

Breland’s attitude caught Khon’s eye, shifting her opinion toward playing doubles at the collegiate level.

“Rebecca is a supportive teammate,” Khon said. “I did not play doubles at all before I came to Temple … she was supportive of this change into doubles play.”

The duo of Breland and Khon has been successful during the course of the fall and spring semesters, through which the pair has combined for a 3-1 record.

“[Breland] is one of our best doubles players,” coach Steve Mauro said. “She is a good finisher when it comes to the point … Yana sets her up nicely, which is why Rebecca and Yana are a good combination. Doubles partnerships are formed by how well the athletes complement each other on the court.”

The Owls swept in doubles action from Jan. 24-25 at the Virginia Commonwealth Invitational, as sophomore Mariana Bedon and junior Minami Okajima defeated VCU in scores of 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, while senior Rebecca Breland and freshman Yana Khon topped Norfolk State in scores of 6-7 (5), 6-4, 10-6. Khon and Breland did not take part in doubles action in the team’s 4-3 defeat to the University of Pennsylvania Friday, in which the Quakers took two of three doubles contests, while Khon participated only in singles play for Temple’s 7-0 win against the University of Delaware on Saturday.

As Mauro has continuously stressed the importance of doubles this season, the squad has ramped up its practice attention on doing just that.

We have been working hard on doubles,” Mauro said. “As a team we are still trying to figure out our doubles combinations. It is going to take some time before we figure out who will be playing with who, but because we are working a lot on doubles play is the reason the women are having success.”

The pair has made a conscious effort to improve communication by means of understanding each others’ on-court tendencies.

“Communication is important when it comes to a strong doubles partnership,” Breland said. “When you are out on the court with someone else and you can’t communicate with that person then as a team you will not be in sync and that can hurt.”

Khon said Breland’s ability to communicate during a match makes it easier for the pair to play in sync with one another.

“It is nice to play with [Rebecca],” Khon said. “She is a good communicator and it is so much easier to play doubles with her.”

In years past, the women’s team has lacked communication. After a roster turnover that included the graduations of four seniors and additions of three freshmen, Breland said on-court dialogue has greatly improved.

“The team last year consisted of many upperclassmen, and the seniors weren’t as into it from a communication standpoint as we are as a team this year,” Breland said. “This year we have the team dynamic that as a team we lacked last year … we are cheering each other on more.”

Individual struggles

Just before Ondre Cargill started a fresh set in the final singles match against Drexel on Jan. 24, he was already down a point.

Junior Santiago Canete had cracked his racket against the side of the net after his own singles defeat that afternoon, an indication of the team’s early 6-8 showing in singles play after its first three spring matches.

“I think that it is so early in the season,” Mauro said. “I feel that the guys are good enough singles players that as time goes on they will become more consistent.”

The Owls have dealt with several close singles matches, which can result in periodic frustration for the team, junior Hicham Belkssir said.

“In tough singles matches, our confidence is tested,” Belkssir said. “Sometimes we get frustrated, but the frustration comes and goes.”

Stuckey-Willis back in lineup

After being sidelined for a week with a persisting knee injury, Monet Stuckey-Willis returned to the lineup in the fifth spot Friday against Penn.

In her first match of the season, the freshman won her singles match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

“It is important to have her back in the lineup and get her back into the rotation,” Mauro said.

Dalton Balthaser can be reached at dalton.balthaser@temple.edu or on Twitter @DaltonBalthaser

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