Men’s and women’s tennis started the spring legs of their seasons Feb. 1-2 with four total team losses, but that’s not slowing them down as they prepare for conference play to start in late March.
Only the women played Friday, Feb. 1, facing Southwest Minnesota State University and Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. The Truman State University Bulldogs took half of the wins in their 4-2 meet against the Mustangs, while the Griffons swept them 4-0 later in the afternoon. The next morning, Newman University also made quick order of the ’Dogs with a 4-0 sweep.
Finessa Rassel produced half of Truman’s wins against the Mustangs, taking the No. 4 singles match after an extended third set ended 10-6. She also won several games in her singles match against the Griffons, but her second set ended prematurely at 4-3 once MWSU secured their fourth and final match point to end the meet.
Rassel said she felt the meet was a good spring opener for the team, especially considering the adjustments everyone had to make in real time on the tennis courts. The tennis teams practice in the Pershing Building during the winter, and the hardwood floors make tennis balls bounce faster than they would off of more traditional court surfaces like asphalt or concrete. While Rassel said this can have its benefits, she also hopes the weather warms up so the Bulldogs can practice on the Truman Tennis Courts, which would give them a playing experience more akin to their competition experiences.
In addition, Rassel expressed a lot of confidence in this year’s tennis teams as they head into GLVC play. She said she felt this spring start was stronger than their fall start, and she thinks that’s a good omen for the rest of the season.
“We have a really good team dynamic this year especially,” Rassel said. “We’ve been working a lot harder at practice and incorporating a lot more fitness.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Feb. 2, the men were several hours away in Evansville, Indiana, playing University of Southern Indiana. The Screaming Eagles, undefeated so far this season, took every match of the meet to land a 7-0 sweep of the ’Dogs.
Nick Thiele put up the Bulldogs’ highest numbers on the scoreboard that day. He fought in the longest singles match of the men’s meet despite losing in two sets, and he was the only Bulldog to win more than two games in a singles set. He and his brother Matt Thiele also had the best Truman doubles performance of the day with their 6-3 loss.
Thiele said he felt the meet went as well as it could have for the men’s first spring outing, and he had the same concerns Rassel had with adjusting to different playing surfaces. He also noted that the GLVC is one of the strongest conferences in the nation for tennis, USI included, but the Bulldogs are most focused on their conference rivals: William Jewell College and Quincy University.
The men are also gearing up for their first ever Alumni Weekend at the end of March. The team will face William Jewell and Rockhurst University that weekend, but the event is also a significant fundraising opportunity for the team. After the men’s tennis team was cut from the Truman Athletics budget last May, the team secured $15,000 of initial funding to compete this season, but it needs $300,000 more to establish an endowment fund for the team and keep its place on campus. Thiele said he thinks the gravity of this event has prompted a mentality shift in the men’s team.
“I actually just talked to 170 alumni this last weekend,” Thiele said. “It’s exciting, and I think that it’s definitely in the back of all the players’ minds, especially this semester, getting ready. All the alumni are going to come back to school for the first time ever. [It’s a] ‘we need to look good’ type deal.”
The ’Dogs have one more non-conference road trip per team before Spring Break. Women’s tennis will play Principia College and Greenville University in a doubleheader Saturday in St. Louis. Men’s tennis will head to Grinnell, Iowa, next Saturday for their own doubleheader against Principia and Grinnell College.