Can't be kept down
Women’s tennis set for another challenge in MAC Tournament play
After starting the season 10-0, the Bulls dropped three straight games after Tanvi Shah (picture) went down with an injury. They're aiming to put their late-season and prior MAC Tournament struggles behind them as they begin tournament play this Friday. Nick Fischetti, The Spectrum
The women's tennis team has proven to be most comfortable with its back up against the wall. The squad will be underdogs throughout the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
After a 10-0 start to the season, the Bulls (13-4, 4-4 MAC) met adversity. The team's star, junior Tanvi Shah, suffered an injury that forced her to retire from her match at Miami Ohio and jumpstarted a three-game losing streak.
"Injuries are going to happen; you can't prevent that necessarily," said head coach Kristen Ortman. "It brings the team closer and you rely on each other and [must pull together] to still come out on top at the end. Every team is going to encounter some injuries. You can either use them as excuses or you can build and grow and get better on and off the court."
Shah missed the next game at Ball State because of her injury and tried to return against Western Michigan in the next match, but she retired her singles match and the Bulls lost by one game.
One day later, Shah stepped back on court and won her first singles match against Bowling Green. Buffalo went on to win the match before dropping the next one and finding itself with control over its own destiny for a berth in the MAC Tournament. The only thing standing in the team's way was back-to-back road games at Eastern Michigan and Toledo.
The Bulls won both games to earn a first-round matchup with Akron (17-9, 5-3 MAC) in the tournament.
"[Shah's injury] put them in a difficult situation going into the last week of the MAC, and they just showed what they are really made of," Ortman said. "A lot of teams can have issues with that, but I am so proud of our girls because they stepped up and that's not something you find readily - teams that are clutch under pressure. Our match against Eastern [Michigan] could not have been any closer and it was really just a testament to their desire and discipline to win."
Buffalo squared off with the Zips on April 13 and lost the match 6-1. Although the Bulls' roster is all the same, it is not the same women's tennis team it was just two weeks ago.
The Bulls enter the upcoming match with their pride and swagger back.
"I think [last weekend's success] gives us confidence," Ortman said. "Being in such a pressure situation and coming out successful, that's the stuff that builds confidence. When you are pushed and your back's up against the wall and you come out victorious, that's where confidence comes from. You are proving it to yourself; you are proving it to your teammates - that when push comes to shove, you have what it's made of."
Ortman believes the injuries allowed players the opportunity to step up and prepare for the MAC Tournament. Shah's healthy return provides stability and comfort, as Buffalo is 13-1 in matches she has completed.
Although the Bulls have struggled in recent years in the MAC Tournament, totaling only one win since 2010, this year's team may be more poised than any team in recent memory to go on a run - coming off two consecutive road victories and having won three of four.
"I think they are more prepared than the rest of the teams coming in because they had [a must-win] situation last weekend," Ortman said. "It's do or die."
The Bulls will begin tournament play Friday at 2 p.m.
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