After impressive seasons in 2022, the UTD men’s and women’s tennis teams look to achieve new successes. With games coming up for both teams on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, Coach Bryan Whitt hopes to start the year off on the right foot.
The men’s team is first up on the schedule, playing their first game at Mary Hardin-Baylor on Feb. 4. The Comets previously beat the team 5-0 back in April 2021. Since then, the men’s team has made back-to-back playoff appearances and capped off their last season with seven different team members named ASC All-Conference players, tied for the highest number in team history. However, with five of those seven players leaving this season, the men’s team hopes to reestablish themselves and develop their young core into a team of new stars. According to Coach Bryan Whitt, the men’s team has a lot of depth, making them a serious contender to win their division and make the postseason. With these high expectations, the team hopes to turn their championship aspirations into a reality, even in spite of the athletes they’ve lost.
“You can’t replicate,” Whitt said. “Even if all six of my starters were the exact same from last year, it’s still a different team. All the experiences they had last year makes them who they are, good and bad … They don’t want to just play matches they can easily win, that’s not fun. It’s about testing yourself and going up against players and teams that matter.”
The women’s team starts off their season opening at home on Feb. 5 against Tabor. Much like the men’s team, the women’s team found their fair share of individual success last year with six athletes taking ASC All-Conference honors. However, unlike their male counterparts, the women’s team has seen historic team success, winning the last three ASC championships in a row. This success resulted in the Comets ranking #24 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s pre-season national DIII rankings. With most of the team returning — including senior Suzuka Nishino, an All-American honoree last season — the team has everything in place to chase a fourth consecutive championship. However, expectations go beyond chasing the ASC championship, as the perennial champions hope to make a stronger push at the DIII national tournament, having never advanced past the second round. With DI and DII teams on the schedule this season, Nishino and the women’s team hope to sharpen their skills against stronger competition.
“I think our team has good depth,” Nishino said. “Which helps us both in practice and in competition, so even if we don’t have one specific really good player or something, we have six people that can outcompete the six from the other team. That’s what we’re hoping to build in this preseason and before we get to playing these conference matches, because that’s where it really matters.”
With high expectations for the men’s and women’s teams this year, the programs hope both teams bring home ASC championships – something they haven’t achieved in the since 2019. With both teams playing their first home games on Feb. 5, Nishino hopes a strong home crowd can help raise support for the tennis program.
“A lot of people don’t know that we have a tennis team here,” Nishino said. “I think that the best way that we can grow our tennis program into the future, for both men and women, is just to get more awareness.”