Hard work, team chemistry give tennis success

Dillan Schorfheide, Men's Tennis Reporter

A losing record can kill a team’s spirit, and it can make the players have a lack of motivation to continue to work hard.

The men’s tennis team is currently 3-16 on the year.  It has endured a hard schedule, facing tough opponents such as the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky, two in-conference opponents who are first and second in the Ohio Valley Conference respectively.

Eastern has also suffered three losing streaks of at least four games, the longest of which was eight games.  The Panthers has also been shut out nine times this season.

But the team is still working hard, staying motivated and finding success.

Redshirt senior Jacob Wendell has the most experience on the team and is the only senior.

“(The season) gets tough, it’s a grind.  Every weekend we’re out of town; we’re here so seldom.  It’s just to keep [the team’s] heads up when things get tough,” Wendell said.

He added that it is important to be cheerful on the court, as well as keeping the spirits and energy high.

As Wendell said with his role on the team, part of the team chemistry is the older players helping the freshman like Gage Kingsmith.

“The upperclassmen always help me,” Kingsmith said.  “Sometimes I get a little angry or sad about how I’m playing, and they’re always there, on the court especially, to help me play my best.”

Fellow freshman Marko Stefan Janjusic agreed with what Kingsmith said, saying the upperclassmen have been very good in helping the freshman to keep working and stay motivated.

“All of us, we stand there for each other, we help each other out,” Kingsmith said.

Off the court, the team continues to build its chemistry.

Wendell said the two big ways the team does so is through playing ping pong together and eating together.

“Ping pong is the battlegrounds,” Wendell said, with a smile on his face.

He also added that before a match, he will goof around with his teammates to help get the team’s spirits loose.

Wendell said he listens to music, Kingsmith said he tries to focus on staying loose with his arms and feet and Janjusic said he believes it is important to have a good diet and drink water.

Wendell said the biggest thing the team is doing to play well is repetitions.

As an example of repetitions, he said the “40 drill,” where each player has to hit 40 balls past the service line.  He said this drill is key for the team.

Throughout the season, head coach Samuel Kercheval has stressed the importance of playing well and doing the simple things right.

Kingsmith, said one of the things Kercheval stresses is moving into to the ball.

“Me especially, I sometimes get kinda lazy and I just allow the ball to come to me,” Kingsmith said.  “That helps me, and I’m sure it helps a lot of the other guys too.”

Eastern has two matches this weekend, Friday Eastern plays Belmont and Saturday they face Tennessee State.

Both teams are OVC opponents, giving the Panthers two chances to earn its first conference win of the season.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]