Men's tennis: Sooners looking for improvement with nationals looming
Ben Williams, The Oklahoma Daily
The OU men’s tennis team, ranked No. 8, faces No. 33 Indiana on Friday and No. 9 Kentucky on Sunday, both of which will prove to be tough road tests for the team.
The matches will be the Sooners’ first matches away from home in the spring season. The team plays the Hoosiers at 1 p.m. Friday in Bloomington, Ind., then travels to Lexington, Ky., for its match against the Wildcats at noon Sunday.
Although wins are always a positive thing, the overall goal for these matches is to get ready for the National Indoor Championship looming in mid-February in Seattle.
“It’s non-conference, so we use that to grow,” coach John Roddick said. “We don’t really focus on the winning and losing aspect of some of these matches, but the thing we try and do is get better each week.”
The Sooners are coming off a strong weekend after hosting the ITA Kick-Off Tournament during which they convincingly swept the competition. Despite the fact the team is 3-0 this season and has yet to even drop a point in their matches, the focus is still on improving this early in the season.
“At the beginning of the season, whether you win or lose, it’s pretty important to keep evolving in the game and in practice,” junior Guillermo Alcorta said.
However, Alcorta said winning in dominant fashion, like last weekend, definitely helps the team’s confidence when they face tougher teams.
The Sooners will need that confidence, especially against Kentucky who is also undefeated this season at 5-0.
OU will look to senior Costin Paval for leadership on the road. Paval said he likes his spot on the team in the No. 1 singles position and embraces his challenging role as a team leader.
“I’m trying to help my teammates as much as possible, so I’m trying to give back everything I’ve learned over the last three years,” he said. “It’s hard sometimes because you have to make sure you pick everybody up, but at the same time it’s a great responsibility, and I really like it.”
Freshman Axel Llamas said it’s good to have a senior in the No. 1 position.
“He’s been here four years so he has more experience,” Llamas said. “He helps us and teaches us a lot of things.”
Since this weekend presents the first road challenge, Roddick said there is a bigger home court advantage playing indoors.
“I know their courts are going to be quicker than ours and it’s going to be a challenging weekend,” he said.
That doesn’t stop Llamas, however.
“I’m excited to travel,” he said. “I think I can play better there because I like people [rooting] against our team. It motivates us more.”
The Sooners have tough tests this weekend, but improvement is the main objective.