Women's tennis to host first and second rounds of NCAA Tournament

For the fourth consecutive season, the Alabama women's tennis team will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Entering the tournament as the No. 13 seed, the Crimson Tide will face Samford on Friday, while South Alabama and Clemson compete in first round action as well. The winners of both matches will meet on Saturday.

Coach Jenny Mainz said her team will face a challenge in the first round, as Samford will be a tough competitor.

"Samford is a deceptive team I think in many ways. They know how to win," she said. "They've won their conference, I think their coach Dave Vest has done a great job. Them coming here, they'll play freely. They don't have any pressure, so to speak, and I think they're a very good competitive team."

The talent doesn't stop with Samford, she said, but rather extends to the other teams competing in Tuscaloosa as well.

"I'm not looking beyond Samford, but I think we have a very good, very competitive site, with South Alabama and Clemson," she said. "Clemson has been right on the verge all year of making that breakthrough." 

At this point in the season, Mainz said, teams are refreshed and re-energized while preparing for post-season play. Every team has worked to reach this position, and anything is possible.

"Everybody is here because they've won their way here. They've won the privilege to be in this position, and it's going to be a struggle, and I think we can expect that. It's okay."

In addition to competing as a team, defending national champions Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe will look to defend their title and represent the Crimson Tide in the doubles portion of the tournament. As they prepare, Routliffe said the girls are trying their No. 1 seeding, and focus instead on playing their best games.

"We're trying to play one match at a time, not thinking about the seeding. Everyone at the end of the year in that tournament is going to be super tough, and super good, so we're just going to try and play every match one match at a time, one point at a time, and try to play on our terms, because that's when we play our best tennis," Routliffe said.

A large part of the team's preparations for the postseason came simply from playing regular season matches. Mainz said playing in the powerhouse SEC is a valuable experience, and that her team is eager and ready to begin the weekend's competition.

"Our team is tough, and we're ready," Mainz said. That's the benefit of competing with the SEC. Every week, you're playing the best teams in the country, the best coaches in the country, the best players in the country."

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