Tuesday February 26, 2013With Non-Conference Schedule Completed, Men's Tennis Looks Forward to SEC Slate
After starting the 2013 season with a 6-0 record, the Florida men’s tennis team has run into a tough stretch, losing its last four matches, all against Top 25 teams. With the non-conference schedule completed, the Gators look forward to a clean slate as they begin play in the Southeastern Conference.
“Our goals are still in front of us, they’re not behind us,” said head coach Bryan Shelton. “After you learn from the mistakes, you get back up on your feet and you get ready to do it again and try to do it better.”
Beginning this weekend, the Gators will be working toward one of their initial goals set prior to the season – winning the SEC title. With the completion of the non-conference schedule last weekend against Baylor, UF has a 6-4 record and is ranked No. 35 in the country. All four of Florida’s losses came to teams currently ranked in the top 26.
“For our team, we look at this match against Texas A&M as a new start for us,” said coach Shelton. “Sure we lost four matches, but it’s the start of the SEC season and a lot of our goals are wrapped up in the SEC season. That’s one of our goals – to win the SEC title. For us, it begins this Sunday against Texas A&M.”
With a week of practice to prepare for the Aggies, the coaching staff has highlighted several areas of emphasis for the squad to work on after reviewing the tape from the past few weeks. Coach Shelton said that the team has got to raise its level in practice in order to succeed on match day.
“Doing it better for us is not so much what happens on game day,” said Shelton. “It’s really about doing a better job every single day. Especially the practice days. I think that’s an area that we can continue to get better at, bringing that level of intensity higher each day in practice and making sure that we’re focusing in on the right things. When we get to match day, which for us this coming week is on Sunday, we can turn on the automatic pilot and just let it go. Take that tension out and that anxiety out because we’re prepared to play.”
The idea of practicing hard to make game day easier is nothing new. Coaches and athletes across many sports oftentimes say that they want to make practices so hard that when the actual contest comes, it feels easier than all the effort they put in on the practice court.
“In practice we’ll push the guys to a point where they’re just physically exhausted,” Shelton said on Monday. “At that point, we want them to push a little harder and go a little further and stay focused and still concentrate and still make plays when they’re past that point so when they get to the match, nothing that they see really phases them and they can go the distance. There’s a reason why we train the way we train so that they can be at their best and really enjoy the match.”
Florida entered the 2013 season with a new coaching staff and some turnover on the roster as well, returning just four players with dual match experience. With nine players on this spring’s roster, and just seven eligible, every member of the team has to be ready when there number is called.
“For us, it really comes down to the preparation,” said Shelton. “We’ve got to get better at our preparation and have every single guy on this team, all nine of them, prepare like champions. I think if we get that type of preparation out of nine players on this team, and three coaches, every single day, I guarantee we’ll start getting the results that we want to get.”
Although the past four matches have not ended in the desired results, Shelton understands what he has with this team and the direction that they are headed. With the start of the SEC season, the Gators hope to use lessons from their previous matches and apply what they learn moving forward.
“We’re still stuck in the process of getting better,” said Shelton. “It doesn’t really start now, that’s been going on and will never end. You’re always in the process. For us, as far as a positive outlook, I think our guys can really rally around this being the start of a new season.
“We’re thinking that we are going to have a great week of practice this week. We know what we need to work on. We’re going to get after it starting [Monday]. I believe that we’re going to play really well against Texas A&M come Sunday.”