Tennis team looks to close regular season strong

Senior women’s player Natalia Barragan gets ready to hit the ball against Jacksonville State University March 31. Barragan is 9-3 in singles and 3-2 in doubles play this season. The Lions face Christian Brothers University April 10.

With two regular season games left to play and the Gulf South Conference tournament one week away, the men’s and women’s tennis teams are in pursuit of a championship.

Both teams are preparing for the tournament in hopes of earning respect and placement in the region. The men’s team has already received national recognition for their performance this season. They are ranked No. 38 in the nation.

“Our goal is to make regionals, but being ranked in the nation certainly feels great,” said junior Ali Murad.

Murad said he is proud of the success his team has had this season but is remaining focused to finish strong.

“As an individual, my goal is to provide my team with as many wins as I can on an individual level by winning my matches,” he said. “At the end of the day, each point counts toward a team win.”

The men’s team is 10-5 overall and 5-2 in the GSC.

Head coach Brice Bishop said the key to his men’s success can be attributed to hard work and confidence.

“Right now they are playing well, and they believe they are going to win every timeout regardless of who we’re playing,” Bishop said.

One member of the men’s team is being recognized for his hard work. Senior Guillaume Dechoz is a key competitor for the Lions, Bishop said, and is ranked No. 45 in the nation in singles.

Bishop said he would like to see more energy among his women’s team day in and day out. He said switching up his doubles teams has provided a little bit of the spark they needed.

Senior women’s player Natalia Barragan said she agrees. Barragan has been playing No. 1 doubles with sophomore Olivera Ngouabeu for the past four games.

“We started slow, which is not the start we wanted,” Barragan said. “But I think we have been getting better in every aspect, and we have been able to close some important matches.”

Barragan said confidence is what her team needs most to end the season.

“I think sometimes we worry too much about the other team,” she said. “We have to believe more in our capacities and our game that way we can show more of what we have and what we can do.”

The women’s team is 8-6 overall and 5-3 in conference.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have played a tough, competitive schedule so far this season. Bishop appreciates the grind that his players go through daily, he said.

“We really have to take care of them physically,” Bishop said. “We have to be mindful of, from a physical standpoint, how much we can put on them everyday.”

The Lions take on Christian Brothers University at home April 10 at 10 a.m.