The Lehigh men’s tennis team is gearing up for the Patriot League Tournament beginning Thursday, April 18, in West Point, New York. The team has been eager to embark on its championship quest since the season started in February.
With a 10-7 record, the Mountain Hawks will enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed. Army West Point (12-12) was named as the No. 1 seed, while Navy (24-13) and Colgate (7-11) filled out the No. 2 and 3 seeds respectively.
Coach Wouter Hendrix said the team has not exhibited fear in the face of the playoffs. In fact, he said the team has learned to embrace the pressure.
“We’ll be playing tough and exciting matches against strong opponents and love the pressure that comes with playing in the league tournament,” Hendrix said. “Our league is highly competitive and while some teams are ranked higher than others, I believe that any team can win on any given day, so it’s important we take things one step at a time.”
While practices at the beginning of the season typically consist of regaining strength and building on the basics, Patriot League playoffs call for a slightly different regiment. The team recognizes the need to narrow its focus to refining specific aspects of the game. Hendrix said double drills and certain plays are two areas of focus this year.
Hendrix said practices at this point place a greater emphasis on physicality. Each member of the team is committed to running regularly in order to maintain stamina on the court. Shuttle runs, which are short bursts of speed from end-line to end-line, help the team develop acceleration and serve as a large component of practices.
“We are way more locked in terms of our practices right before PLC’s (Patriot League Championships),” said junior Jack Martin-Dyer. “We’re basically practicing every day with an off-day here and there.”
The team also practices yoga once a week for about an hour to build strength, flexibility and balance. A YouTube instructor at the helm, the men sit together and mirror the moves and poses they see on the screen.
But despite the team’s packed schedule, the men have one thing on their minds.
“There is certainly a buzz going around with the guys with the playoffs coming up,” said senior captain Bryant Born. “We’ve been counting down the weeks.”
The team is continuing to improve its doubles game and is looking to trust each other in tough situations. A close bond on the court will strap them with the confidence they need heading in the tournament.
This season, the team has focused more on the process as opposed to the results. The men have put more effort and work in this year than any year before.
“Our goal this season was to set ourselves up as well as we could to win a Patriot League Tournament,” Born said. “I think we’ve accomplished this so now it’s time to trust ourselves and only good things can happen.”
Lehigh faced Army on April 7 at West Point and lost 4-2. The Mountain Hawks won the top two doubles flights, but Army rallied with four singles wins. It was the smallest differential Born has experienced against Army during his collegiate career thus far.
“We won the doubles point against Army which hasn’t happened in my four years here at Lehigh,” Born said. “Five of the six singles matches went to three sets so they are definitely a team we want to get another chance at.”
With only 10 names on the roster, the men pride themselves on their camaraderie and confidence in one another.
“I’d say one of our greatest strengths is our cohesiveness,” Hendrix said. “The team fights for each other, and our student-athletes are representing something bigger than themselves.”
Martin-Dyer said the team is inseparable, on and off the court. He said their bond will bode well for them in their playoff matches.
Lehigh will face Lafayette on Saturday, April 13, at the Lewis Indoor Tennis Center. The team will use the competition not only to prepare for playoff games but also to celebrate its four seniors on senior day.