If there is any team on the Greenville campus that has experienced excellence, it’s the men’s tennis team. With consecutive winning seasons dating back as far as 2013, the tradition of success runs deep throughout the program. From coaching to team culture, many factors can attest to this success, but one thing is for sure; it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
As everyone knows by now, this year won’t be like any other. The circumstances surrounding these players on and off the court are generational. Yet, as the weather begins to change into fall, the goals and aspirations for these competitors have not. Just over six weeks into the practice season, the Panther Tennis Team has a lot of history to back up their fall strategies.
The team lost three seniors to graduation from last season, yet one will be returning to the team as a key veteran piece. One of the returners, Austin Burkhart, had plans to graduate after the 2020 season, but since he has regained his last year of eligibility, he has decided to compete in the 2021 season. He is now back to reclaim the year he lost. He currently sits at second in the last 25 years in wins for the program, and he is a three-time All-Conference first team member, 2020 team captain. Looking toward the future, Burkhart will look to translate the winning tradition he has experienced himself onto the younger players. Other returners from last spring’s squad are Tyler Blume, Matthew Rodriguez, Matt Lehr, and Zach Merrill. This group of athletes ended the shortened season 5-4, continuing the winning season streak.
As far as this fall training season goes, there are three newcomers to the team this year that will be looking to carve out their role in the group. Thibaut Tignee, Luke Motsinger, and Chris Watterson are joining the team this year, and teammates already like what they see from the three. Blume, a junior tennis player at Greenville, said he has been surprised with the talent and how fast these new guys are adjusting to the college athlete regiment. “The new players on the team are getting used to the setups of the practices. Everyone on the team is improving, which is the main goal for our offseason.”
As far as practices are going, Blume likes what he sees from this new, yet experienced, group of guys. He explained how the team was quite young last year, and the experience gained from those nine games will help as they roll on to the next. “We will be a very deep team, meaning any player could realistically play at any position on the team.” Usually, around this time, there is a tournament hosted here at Greenville, yet this year was canceled for COVID safety reasons. With no games on the schedule still, the men’s team members look to work on things they normally wouldn’t be able to in the mid-swing of a season. “Since we do not have any matches this fall, we are trying to really focus on the small things to work on in order to be the best team we can be,” Blume explained. Although true games and scrimmages would be ideal in the offseason, this resilient group of men will look to work with what they have and be prepared to be a nightmare matchup for opposing teams come spring.
Media by Seth Isringhausen.