Troy tennis opens with strong opponents

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It’s been a tough opening weekend for both of the Troy University tennis teams, but despite the early season blues head coach Eric Hayes sees his teams with the ability to win the Sun Belt in 2012.

The men’s team opened the season with a road match against Florida State on Monday, Jan. 16, falling 0-7 to the 44th ranked Seminoles and the women dropping two to Kansas State and Georgia.

The men won’t be getting an easier shot at things with their next match either, with the team staying on the road to take on 22 ranked Auburn.

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“Auburn is a very strong team and one of the best in the SEC,” Hayes said. “We’re going to have to be a lot more aggressive than we were against FSU. We don’t know what the weather’s going to do or if we’ll be playing inside or outside but we’ll be ready.”

The men’s team has its fair share of uncertainties on the lineup; the Trojans bring no seniors and only one junior to the lineup, with most of their ranks built on returning sophomores from the 2011 season.

“We were young last year for sure,” Hayes said. “Five of our six players were freshmen so we were a young team but I’m excited. We’ve got more experience and depth this year, we’ve got potential and playing these stronger teams can only help us.”

While the men’s team is getting ready for a matchup with Auburn on Saturday, the women’s team has a bit of a break before their own SEC match, a date with the reigning national champions at Florida on Jan. 25.

“Florida is the current national champion so it’s going to be a huge challenge,” Hayes said. “But win or lose we’re going to come out a better team. It’s a great chance for the girls to test themselves against a national champion level team and to get better.”

Though the women bring back two seniors and two juniors, giving them a bit more experience than the sophomore-laden men’s team, they will have to do without senior Gabriella Veiga of Londrina, Brazil.

With Veiga on injury reserve, the women will have to see some younger talent move up into leadership roles, and Hayes says to keep eyes on players like remaining senior Olfa Dhaoui and junior Karoline Grymel.

“Like with the men, I’m looking for these players to anchor our team,” Hayes said. “We start early and we look forward to getting ourselves in a position in March or April to win a conference championship.”

As if a big enough challenge didn’t await both of the Trojan teams this season, both have a heavy number of road games to prepare for, with the men not even returning to Troy for a match until early February.

But much like the relative young age of his players, Coach Hayes sees it as a challenge worth taking.

“We’re just a traveling team and not a whole lot of other teams come to Troy to play,” he said. “But I couldn’t give a darn, I like when our team has to travel brings us together, it helps make us a unit.”

The tennis season at Troy University is in full swing for 2012 as both teams prepare for SEC showdowns in the coming week.

The men will return to Troy on Feb. 9 to face Samford and the women will be back on Jan. 29 for a match with Florida A & M.