Posted on 07 March 2012.
Teams at all levels of athletics go through tough stretches of play over the course of a season.
Members of the Butler men’s and women’s tennis teams can attest to that right now.
Both squads have suffered from extended losing streaks prior to conference play this season.
The men’s team dropped its first 10 matches this season before coming out on top against Bradley on Feb. 24.
The women started their spring season with a 2-3 mark before becoming mired in their current seven-game losing streak.
As a result of these struggles, the men sit at 1-13 while the women hold a record of 2-10.
For the men, the 10-match drought was two matches longer than the squad’s lengthiest skid over the past six seasons.
“We’ve played a good number of ranked teams, and the level of tennis is pretty high,” freshman Pulok Bhattacharya said. “We did manage to learn from [the losses]. Everything isn’t coming together right now.”
The men have played six teams that were ranked in the nation’s top 100 at some point this season, including a season-opening match against current No. 2 Ohio State.
The Bulldogs took on five of those ranked teams on the road as well, with the team’s Feb. 5 match against Harvard being the exception.
While the women’s team has taken on only one ranked team— Memphis on Feb. 12—the Bulldogs have faced off against squads from 10 different conferences.
“We had a really tough schedule at the beginning of the season with IU and DePaul,” sophomore Caroline Hedrick said. “We’re having a hard time getting a rhythm down.”
Non-conference play has proven to be far more difficult than Horizon League action for both teams.
Last season, the men captured three of their six regular-season victories in conference play, while the women scored six of their 14 wins in league play.
“I think we’re still a top contender to win the conference,” freshman Tommy Marx said. “We just have to put it together.”
Both Marx and Bhattacharya expressed the importance of seniors Zach Ervin and Stephen McLoughlin, who are the elder statesmen on a team with six freshmen.
“The seniors know how to change the mood at practice,” Bhattacharya said. “Mainly it’s them motivating and always being behind us.”
Players from both teams said injuries have played a big role in the slow starts.
Hedrick, the regular No. 1 singles player on the women’s team, has been sidelined with an injured foot. She says she hopes to be practicing again during spring break.
For the men, Bhattacharya and McLoughlin have missed time with injuries.
Still, players said there have been missed opportunities.
“[The match against] Grand Valley State could’ve been a win, and Ball State was close,” sophomore Gabrielle Rubenstein said. “It’s all about competing under pressure.”
Marx said that the men’s team “definitely would’ve won at Dayton with a full lineup.”
Players on both sides said that coach Jason Suscha has been instrumental during the tough times.
“One of the biggest things he says is trying versus competing,” senior Kahfii King said. “It’s a very interesting concept: not trying to do what you think you can do but doing what you know you can do.”
Sophomore Brad DiCarlo said the men’s team has also been having two practices every day “to get more work in.”
Horizon League play begins for both teams on March 24.
Both teams will open on the road against Valparaiso and Illinois-Chicago on March 24 and 25, respectively.
Hedrick said the match against UIC is big because “we haven’t beaten them in a long time.”
For the men, Marx said, “Cleveland State and Green Bay will be the two toughest teams in the league.”
Players from both teams said that despite the tough start, they feel they have a good chance.
“We’re always thinking we want to win conference,” Rubenstein said.
“The main goal is to try and win conference and make the NCAA tournament,” Bhattacharya said.