Comparing the men's and women's tennis teams: past, present and futureBy Ben Boynton | 04/12/2016 9:06pm
It has been a tale of two teams for Alabama in tennis this season. The women have struggled, holding a 4-15 record and a 0-11 record in the SEC. Meanwhile, the men have posted a 14-11 record and are 5-6 in the SEC. In recent history, the women have been among one of the top teams in the conference, and the men struggled. The role seems to have reversed. The situation this season raises a few good questions, one being: When was the last time the women struggled this much and the men did so well?
Let’s start with the women’s record this season. The team sits dead last out of 14 teams in the SEC. The last time the Crimson Tide finished last in the conference was in 2000, during coach Jenny Mainz’s third year in Tuscaloosa. That year was also the last time the Crimson Tide was winless in the SEC. In fact, if the Crimson Tide doesn’t win its last two matches to end up with six wins on the season, this year will mark the team’s third lowest win total in program history. The team went winless in 1998 and won only three matches in 1999. The third lowest total is six wins, which was in 1975 during the program’s inaugural season under coach Jean Mills.
The Crimson Tide’s performance is especially shocking considering its prospects heading into the year. Coming off of a 2014-15 season where Alabama won the SEC Championship and ended the year at No. 14 in the country, expectations were high for this season. Seniors Lucielena Perez and Emily Zabor graduated, but obtaining the No. 3 recruit in the country, Andie Daniell, brought optimism. Alabama had some other players ready to step up and fill the open roles. However, the team did lose senior Maya Jansen to injury before the year began. Even then, the team was still expected to do well. A pre-season poll of the SEC coaches picked Alabama to finish fifth among the 14 teams.
For the men, the story is different. The team’s current winning percentage of .560 is the program’s best since 2009, and the best under coach George Husack. In addition, the Crimson Tide’s current seventh place ranking in the SEC would be the best since that same 2009 season. Coming off of a 17-17 season, the team’s performance isn’t necessarily shocking, especially considering the addition of talented freshmen Mazen Osama and Spencer Richey. The Crimson Tide is exceeding expectations, however, as it was picked to finish ninth in the pre-season poll of SEC coaches.
More surprising than the success of the men is the fact that the men are doing better than the women. The last time the men’s record was better than the women’s was in 2010. Since then, the women have had the better record every year - until this year. The men also should end up with a doubles pair ranked higher than the women’s team. The loss of Jansen broke up the two-time defending National Doubles Champions of Jansen and junior Erin Routliffe for the women. Sophomore Korey Lovett and Osama are No. 6 in the country currently, while the highest-ranked women’s pair is the No. 54 pair of Daniell and Routliffe, a pair that also no longer plays together.
In singles, Osama is No. 50 and Lovett is No. 98. This is one area where the women have done better this season, as Routliffe is No. 28 and Daniell is No. 42.
Both teams have reason to be excited about next season as well. The men will only lose one senior in Becker O’Shaughnessey. The rest of the roster will stay intact. Meanwhile, the women also lose only one senior - Natalia Maynetto - but they already have verbal commitments from two five-star players for next year. According to TennisRecruiting.net, the Crimson Tide women are adding the No. 10 and No. 21 recruits to the roster next year.
In the end, it’s quite possible that the women overtake the men next season, like previous years. Yet it’s also possible that the men and women are both elite programs next season. The present may not be the brightest, but the future certainly looks promising for both the men’s and women’s teams.