Women's tennis serves up new season in the park
The UAB Women’s Tennis Team has played four matches thus far this season. The Blazers, currently sitting with a record of 1-3, opened their home schedule against Conference USA opponent, Louisiana Tech, on Saturday, Feb. 4.
The Blazers scheduled the large schools, such as Mississippi State, Alabama and Memphis, for the beginning of the season to build experience.
“This season, I think, is going to be different than the last three where we are starting to build a little bit of a different culture, implementing some different values and I think everyone is really buying in,” said senior Pardis Kianoush. “Some things we haven’t really had the past few years. Normally we play a few ranked schools… which is intense and it is an experience not all schools get. You get to play, maybe, your toughest competition right from the get-go so you know what to expect.”
College tennis does not have a large following at most universities, but the players and coaches want to change that.
“I think people don’t understand how exciting [college tennis] can be,” said UAB Women’s Tennis Head Coach Mark Tjia. “We play one set of doubles on three separate courts at one time and the team that wins two out of three of those doubles gets a point. Then we break for five minutes and come back out with all six singles matches going. Scores are best out of seven. Doubles count as one point and each singles count as one,” Tjia said.
Tija said conference play was less important for tennis than other sports. Conference USA spreads from Texas to West Virginia. For this reason, the season does not split into conference and nonconference play as it does in football and basketball.
“[Tournament seeding] is done solely through your national ranking,” Tjia said. “So that’s one reason we play a tough schedule: A, to get prepared for the Conference USA Tournament and B, you know, it’s our hope to be ranked nationally. The automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is based on if you win your Conference Tournament.”
Because of season ending injuries, Tija does not have the luxury of experienced players on the roster. With only one active senior, the Blazers look towards their younger players and two walk-ons to step up, play well and be leaders.
“We were actually turned into a young team overnight because one of our senior players, who was going to be a real big part of our line-up, injured herself in the fall so she’s done,” Tija said. “That leaves us with only one senior, who is our number one player, and the next oldest are sophomores. We also have two walk-ons who, even though they are a sophomore and a junior in years, you count [them] as a freshman because they have not played Division-I tennis before,” Tjia said.
The Blazers have 10 home matches throughout the spring. All matches are played at George Ward Park and are free to all students and public. Tija said they also offer free pizza between matches.
Connor Gentry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zcgentry