Tennis teams hit their mark

Men’s, women’s squads have both enjoyed successful seasons

By TOM DINKI
On April 3, 2014

  • Senior Miranda Podlas and the women’s tennis team have won 10 of their past 12 matches. The Bulls will host MAC rivals Miami Ohio and Ball State this weekend. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum
  • Sophomore Akhil Mehta and the men’s tennis team received their first-ever top-75 ranking earlier this season. The No. 72 Bulls have lost four of their last seven and will look to get on track this weekend as they host Binghamton and Western Michigan. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum

UB sports fans have long waited to see a winner in Alumni Arena and UB Stadium. But fans need only to venture a few miles off campus to the Miller Tennis Center to see two Buffalo teams enjoying consistent success.

The men's tennis team (9-5, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) received its first-ever top-75 ranking by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association earlier this season, and the women's team (11-3, 2-1 MAC) has had an impressive start of its own - winning 10 of its last 12 matches.

The men's team is currently ranked No. 72 in the country. The Bulls broke into the top 75 after opening the season with a 4-3 win over No. 46 Cornell (10-5, 1-0 Ivy League). But head coach Lee Nickell said the national ranking is not on the team's mind.

"We understand that rankings are what other people think of us and our results are what we think of ourselves," Nickell said. "We kind of just view it as a little extra thing, but we don't really focus on it at all."

Nickell attributes the team's success this year to its ability to win close games.  The Bulls have won six matches by the score of 4-3, five of which came down to the final singles game.

Nickell stressed the importance of having a variety of players step up and seize important matches. Sophomores Pablo Alvarez, Sergio Arevalillo and Akhil Mehta have each clinched a 4-3 victory this season in a winner-take-all challenge. 

Nickell believes the catalyst of the Bulls' success is what takes place off the court.

"Our biggest strength is our team chemistry and how close the guys are," Nickell said. "In the past, we've had some egos on the team and it's hurt us. This year, we have no egos and that's helped us a lot."

The Bulls have struggled recently, totaling a 3-4 record in their past seven matches, including a 5-2 conference-opener loss to Toledo (8-15, 2-0 MAC). Nickell believes one of the reasons for the loss was Buffalo's inexperience on an indoor court. When the Bulls lost to the Rockets on March 23, it had been more than a month since they played at the Miller Tennis Center.

"We're close with these really good teams, and when you're at this level a few points here or there dictates the outcome and we just need to get those points," Nickell said. "But Toledo was probably the only real disappointing loss this year. We may have taken them a little lightly and they took it to us."

The women's team has won 10 of its last 12 matches and has five 7-0 victories this season. But the Bulls know they will have to win close matches in conference play.

"There's really not going to be any blowouts in the conference," said head coach Kristen Maines. "There's so much parity this year. Any time you can win a 4-3 match, that's obviously a confidence boost."

Buffalo won a 4-3 decision over Toledo (12-4, 3-1 MAC) March 22 after senior Tanvi Shah defeated the Rockets' Chrissy Coffman in a winner-take-all match. The Bulls won the doubles point, and Maines determined their doubles play as one of the team's biggest strengths.

Buffalo's doubles teams have combined for a 51-22 record and have won the point in each of the team's overall victories.

Maines also cited the team's depth as one of its biggest strengths. Last season, the Bulls started off 10-0 but struggled down the stretch after losing Shah to injury.

With only seven players on the roster, Maines knows keeping her players on the court is key.

"The biggest focus this year has really just been staying healthy," Maines said. "We're a small team, so you need everyone. If you have one injury, it's really going to affect the whole team."

The men's and women's teams play their final two home games of the season this weekend.

The women face Miami Ohio (11-4, 2-0 MAC) Friday and Ball State (11-7, 1-1 MAC) Saturday. Both matches are set for 1 p.m. The men play Binghamton (10-8) Friday at 6 p.m. and Western Michigan (11-9, 0-1 MAC) Sunday at 10 a.m. All matches will take place at the Miller Tennis Center in Williamsville.

 

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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