Team finishes undefeated season in ASC West, favored to meet UT Tyler in championship match
After finishing its season with an undefeated record in the ASC West, the men’s tennis team is preparing to host the conference tournament for a shot at the ASC crown.
To win the tournament, which starts April 28, the Comets will have to best an old foe that has also gone undefeated in conference play — UT Tyler.
Last year, the Comets were 5-9 overall, including a 2-2 mark in the ASC. The team qualified for the ASC tournament, but fell 1-5 in the first round to the Ozarks.
This year, the team’s fortune has taken a turn for the better, with the Comets posting a 7-1 overall and going 5-0 in the ASC West.
Head coach Bryan Whitt said the biggest reason for improvement has been the depth of talent the squad has.
“Some teams have a strong, nationally ranked-type number one, but if they don’t have anything behind it, they’re only getting one point,” he said. “We have some good players at the top, but we also have depth all the way through. My number five is undefeated, my number four is undefeated in West Division play. We can get points from anywhere in the lineup.”
He said having that talent spread throughout the team helps to take some of the pressure off of the top players so they don’t have to feel like they have to score all of the teams points in play.
Rodney Brown, a transfer sophomore who is on the team, said another key part of the team’s success this year is the unity members have on and off the court.
“I think we bond really well together,” he said. “And with that aspect it allows us to really compete out there. … We’re out there not fighting individually, but fighting as a team for UTD.”
While hosting the tournament comes with a certain number of advantages, Whitt said it also comes with a number of challenges, such as players not being in the same hotel together and having more distractions around them.
He did say, however, that hosting may possibly lead to a literal home-court advantage for the Comets.
“I think we’re going to be able to get a lot of people out and make it a rowdy environment, which hopefully can inspire our guys and keep them fired up and keep their energy level high,” he said. “You don’t usually get that when you’re on the road, because the other team, they try to do the opposite to you. So from that standpoint, it’s good.”
Although the team is favored to win a majority of its early matches, Whitt said they will have to face a number of unknown factors since they will be playing team from the East division.
The only team they have played this year from the East has been ETBU.
“It is a challenge. … You don’t get a chance to kind of look at what you’re dealing with,” he said.
Throwing more confusion into the mix is UT Tyler, who took home the ASC East title this year after going undefeated in division play.
The Patriots, who were recently ranked as high as No. 32 in the country, are the favorites to meet the Comets in the tournament final.
Although UT Tyler is considered the favorite to take the title, Whitt said he still expects his team to compete for the crown.
“From our standpoint, I want to be winning points at various spots and having a chance with matches on the court to beat whoever we play in the finals if we make it,” he said. “If we can go in and maybe steal a doubles point, maybe get up a set or two in some areas in some different spots and then make that other team think, ‘Hey, wait a second, we might have a chance to lose,’ then we’ve got a chance. Because they’re a pretty confident bunch over there, so if we let them get momentum and let them start rolling, it could be a quick day.”