Women's tennis faces tough tournament challengeBy Ben Boynton | 02/04/2016 7:50pm
The Alabama Crimson Tide women’s tennis team is in Madison, Wisconsin, to play in the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Tournament, which starts on Friday. This is the fourth straight appearance in the tournament for the Crimson Tide, who are currently 2-0 and ranked No. 13 in the country.
Alabama will be facing a stiff first round challenge against the No. 3 seed, North Carolina, which is also ranked No. 5 in the country. Not only are the Tar Heels strong this year, but they are also the defending champions of the tournament, looking to claim their third win in the last four years.
“Everybody has to win their way there,” coach Jenny Mainz said. “North Carolina is a very good, experienced team. They’re well-coached, and we know we have our work cut out for us.”
The tournament is entering its 29th year, and it has been hosted by the University of Wisconsin for 24 of those years. Alabama is no stranger to the tournament, so the challenge the players are facing is not new to them. Still, the tournament hosts a lot of strong, competitive teams.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us to play against some of the best teams in the country,” junior Erin Routliffe said. “I’d say this is the toughest indoor tournament of the season.”
Routliffe acknowledged the high level of competition that the team will face in the tournament, but she is focused on the opportunity to continue improving that the tournament provides the team
“We’re just trying to play aggressive tennis and try to get to know each other and know how we all play, since we have only played two matches so far,” Routliffe said.
Mainz also believes the tournament offers the team a chance to build upon its success so far this season. The team has been very focused on working on its first-serve percentages, returning serves and playing tennis on its own terms.
“I felt like the team competed very hard and very well in the ITA Kick-off Weekend. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re playing our best tennis, but I felt like we did a good job of controlling the controllable things, and I though we competed with a lot of fight and a lot of tenacity,” Mainz said. “It’s so early in the season, and I want to focus on building on what we’ve been working on.”
It easily could look ahead in the schedule and think about the next match, especially in a tournament like this, but Alabama is only focused on what is right in front of it.
“We want to just focus on one match at a time, we want to build on what we’ve been working on in the last month,” Mainz said.
The Crimson Tide will play at 9 a.m. against North Carolina for Friday's opening round.