March 7, 2014
Hello Tide Tennis Fans,
Greetings from the Bayou as the Crimson Tide has traveled southwest to Baton Rouge for the first of three matches this weekend. Alabama faces LSU at 1 p.m. on Friday and then heads back to Tuscaloosa to host a rare Sunday doubleheader - Arkansas at 1 p.m. and The Citadel at 6 p.m.
This trio comes a week after a trip to the mighty Mississippi where the Tide split a pair with our neighbors to the west. At `Hail State,' the match vs. the Bulldogs took two days to complete as rain washed away any possibility of a final score on Friday and no indoor facility in Starkville. The boys spent the night down the road in Columbus and returned to State Saturday, trailing 1-0 following the doubles point the day before. The energy was flowing much better after a morning warm-up game of ultimate frisbee played on a nicely groomed football field next to the tennis complex. I figured after sitting around for a few hours waiting for the rain to stop on Friday our bodies needed a little pick-me-up to get the engines warmed up on Saturday. We quickly found ourselves up a set on four of the six courts and the tug-of-war continued under the bright and sunny skies. Daniil Proskura was the first to put Bama on the board with a gritty 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles, and after the Dogs snuck out to a 3-1 lead, Nikko Madregallejo and Andrew Goodwin evened things at 3-3 with impressive victories of their own. That left a pair of big hitters remaining on court No. 2 where Becker O'Shaughnessey was clipped 7-5 in the third that brought delight to the home crowd. Always tough to lose the close matches, but we learned a lot from our performance and headed to Oxford with one thing in mind ... strong start and even better finish against the Rebels. Before heading to Oxford, the team celebrated Ryler's 30th birthday with a pair of whip cream facials by Stuart and Becker. Later during lunch, Ryler's wife Megan followed up with a timely pie-in-the-face surprise of her own for her dear husband and his special day was complete.
It was fun to be back in Oxford less than a year after our big win over the Rebels at the SEC Championships. A lasting memory created when senior Jarryd Botha clinched the dramatic 4-3 win ... a three-set thriller that ended on a 25-ball rally where his opponent missed shot No. 25. Fast forward to March 2, 2014 and overcast skies threatened our match from remaining outdoors. Wouldn't be a problem for us as the move from outside to inside was exactly what happened last April, and we were prepared for anything. The matches, however, got started according to Mother Nature's schedule with several Tide fans in attendance (many thanks to those that made the journey from Tuscaloosa and beyond!). Freshmen Hayes Brewer and Sean Donohue paired up for the first time this season and scored a convincing win at No. 3 doubles, while Becker and Daniil followed that up with a strong win at No. 1. This gave the Tide a 1-0 lead ... the doubles point is so big!
Alabama struck first in singles as we once again got off to a solid start, winning first sets on four out of six courts. Stuart Kenyon was first off for Bama with an impressive win at No. 3. He was down a break 4-5 early before breaking back and winning the first set in a tiebreaker. He then steamrolled over his Rebel opponent to put the Crimson Tide up 2-0. After Ole Miss got on the scoreboard with a point, Nikko Madregallejo won his third consecutive match inching Bama ever so close to the coveted fourth point. After an hour rain delay where we decided to stay outdoors, the Rebels cut the lead to 3-2 in sub-40 temps leaving Tuscaloosa roommates Daniil and Andrew left to close the door on their SEC foes. Both players were battling in their third sets, but Andrew began to pull away with a variety of punches that included heavy topspin, angled slices and drop shots to name a few. He would go onto clinch the match and let out an extremely loud yell much to the excitement of his teammates as they stormed the court in victory (You can relive match point via video on our Facebook page). It was nice to hear Ryler yell out "Point Bama!" again and the Tide would end their weekend on a strong note. Oxford has become a special place.
After a well-deserved day off on Monday, the team had good training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, before heading down the highway to Baton Rouge on Thursday. Prior to team's departure, we spent time reading, talking, laughing and playing with kids at The Rise. A fun experience for the players and children. The week also featured Ryler's ultimate team showing improvement and finally winning their first set in a few weeks (but not the match as we had to stop early for a test-taking student ... remember Ryler, school first, ultimate second). Must have been the scouting report and strategic game plan Ryler typed up for his team ... who does that? Only DeHeart, but that's why we love him.
If you're in the Bayou, come on over to LSU and get ready to wrestle the Tigers. If you can't make the trip, then please join us at home this Sunday as we host a doubleheader. We'll have our Bama Block Party at 1 p.m. vs. Arkansas where we've invited everyone on 5th Street to join us for the match and FREE PIZZA for all fans. We'll have our `neighbors' from Capstone Village, The Rise Child Development Research Center, The Student Rec Center and women's soccer join us for the festivities along with the Bama tennis faithful. Big Al will also be in attendance, then at 6 p.m. Alabama will complete our DH with a match against The Citadel.
Looking forward to it all.