The Truman State University tennis team currently has an 11-2 record, an improvement from last year’s 7-8 overall record.
Coach Steve Smith said he thought the season has gone very well.
“My goals for the season were to have the kids play well and also support each other, and both of those things have happened,” Smith said.
Smith said he hoped to provide the players with a sense of normalcy during a time of COVID-19. He wanted tennis to be something the players could concentrate on other than the pandemic.
He was able to help reach his goals of keeping the players physically and mentally fresh. He said he kept them physically fresh by doing some extra strength and conditioning in the winter months to avoid overuse injuries. They’ve also done some yoga, which helps with flexibility.
The number one and two position players left after graduating last year, leaving room for new players to step up.
Smith said the freshmen players, Allie Brown, Akansha Negi and Abbi Worster, are all playing really well.
Allie Brown is a freshman player who is currently in the no. 1 position.
Brown said she wasn’t expecting to be in the no. 1 position. However, there’s no pressure when she plays in the first position because her teammates can still win beneath her. She said even people in the bottom positions cheer for them, and there’s no superiority complexes on the team.
“Everyone having experience at the bottom sets them up for victory, and I even receive advice about who I play at the top from the upperclassmen on the team,” Brown said.
“They’re playing some good tennis, “ Smith said. “I’d say, like in terms of level of play and just team character, [we’re doing] about the same which is really good considering what we graduated and what the kids have had to live through last year and this year.”
Smith said this year the pandemic hasn’t affected the games as much as last year. Previous seasons have had the number of games cut down, making Smith concerned about scheduling meets if they were just going to get canceled.
“It was a little more up in the air last year in terms of scheduling because the previous seasons, a lot of the season was taken away, so you were kind of ambivalent about scheduling a lot of meets that you didn’t know would actually happen or not,” Smith said.
Smith said no games have been canceled so far this season, so they’ve been able to play a more normal amount of games.
Brown said she’s been focusing on getting to know the team, especially since they’ll only be playing together for four years.
“Team bonding during first semester was limited because of COVID, but we’re building up this chemistry now,” Brown said.
The team has their own events, such as lip-synching, and traditions such as teammate Rachel Shelly splitting an apple before their games.
Looking forward to conference play, Brown said she’d heard their conference was scary. However, if they could get three wins, they’d be able to have a shot against anyone, Brown said.
Smith said only the top half of the teams were able to participate in the conference, and Truman had never qualified for it before.
Brown said she thought they could finish out the season playing pretty well. She said the tennis program hadn’t really been in that position before, and they’d have to play their best and roll with the results.
Brown said Smith has been a supportive coach.
“Sometimes when we get to the end of the score, coach Smith just tells us we won. He doesn’t put pressure on us and wants us to have fun with it,” Brown said. “He even sometimes tells us jokes and lifts our spirits on the sideline during close matches. Without pressure, it helps us to win.”
“I would say that they are all good tennis players who try their hardest and do a wonderful job of supporting each other at practice, away from practice, at the meets — it’s a supportive environment, not a cutthroat environment,” Smith said.