TCU tennis players prepare for the NCAA tournament through the stress of finals

05/09/2013 9:09 PM

06/08/2013 11:54 PM

The old coach’s cliché says there is no I in team.

Along those same lines, there most certainly is an I in tennis, one of the most individual sports in the NCAA.

For the TCU men’s and women’s tennis players, the bond they shared with their teammates separated them from recent squads as they head into the NCAA tournament this weekend.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group of guys like this. There are absolutely no issues off the court,” men’s coach David Roditi said. “They work hard and they listen and they are humble. This is a special group.”

The men’s team (18-9) earned a No. 3 seed in the Los Angeles Regional and plays No. 2 Drake on Friday in its tournament opener.

The women’s team (17-6) heads to the College Station Regional as a No. 2 seed and will play North Texas on Saturday.

The bond these teams shared is key as the school year winds to an end. While both tennis coaches worked hard to prepare their teams for the biggest collegiate stage in their sport, the players had to split their efforts between the intense focus of practice and the long hours spent studying for finals.

“They’re stressed out. They’re tired. They’re not getting enough sleep. They are not getting enough to hit enough balls,” Roditi said.

Practice takes on a different form, Roditi said. First, the players almost never have a chance to practice together as a unit because of finals schedules, so practices become more individual. Those practices remain loose and enjoyable to help relieve the stresses of long hours spent in the library, Roditi said.

The players were so busy with finals that they were not allowed to be interviewed.

“I know today when we fly out to L.A., they’ll put all those finals behind them and be ready to play,” Roditi said Wednesday.

That plane flight ends a two-year NCAA tournament drought for the men’s tennis team and marks the Horned Frogs’ 25th appearance in the tournament.

The women make their 15th NCAA appearance, earning a second consecutive bid.

The women defeated North Texas 4-2 in Denton earlier this season.

For women’s coach Dave Borelli, the short break from play for finals was a breath of fresh air after the grind of Big 12 play.

“We’ve had some injuries late in the year that hurt of us a lot,” Borelli said. “I still think we had a great chance to compete for the Big 12 title all the way to the end. We lost some heartbreakers and lost some confidence losing to good teams. I think the break has been good for us to get reorganized.”

As both teams enter postseason play coming out of the first season in the Big 12, the slate has been cleared, as demonstrated by the men’s team pyramid, not unlike the goal pyramid football coach Gary Patterson makes each season for his teams.

“It’s a reset button,” Roditi said. “Now we’re in the Big 12, now what? We’ve got to do something.”

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